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Adapt or Die: Mike Condon’s Recipe for Success

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Mike Condon has had to fight through his fair share of changes over the past several years. And now, out of nowhere, he’s grabbed the backup position from Andrew Hammond.

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Though Senators goaltender Mike Condon has essentially been living out of a suitcase on-and-off since he turned pro in 2013, he seems to have found a bit of a routine as of late.

“(I’m) probably the most comfortable because I’ve finally been in the same league for two years in a row,” Condon said in an interview with Silver Seven on Friday. “Now it’s just a matter of constantly, every day, improving and not getting complacent.”

So far, in his five-year professional career, Condon has played for seven teams in three different leagues. From the Wheeling Nailers in the ECHL to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL, the 26-year-old has lived in his fair share of hotels the past handful of seasons.

The longest stint of his career came with the Montreal Canadiens last year when he played 55 games for the club. Condon began the campaign as the team’s backup, but when Carey Price went down long term with an MCL sprain, he was thrusted into the starting job.

As was well-documented, things couldn’t have gotten off to a better start and ended so poorly. Midway through November, Condon was wearing a .936 save percentage along with a 1.73 goals against average. Silly numbers.

“Not having a regulation loss in your first seven games was obviously great,” the Holliston, Massachusetts native admitted. “But I knew that’s not the way it was always going to be.”

And then came the slide.

Long story short, the Habs went from repping the best record in the NHL for a couple months to missing out on the playoffs. Condon would finish the season 21-25-6 with a .903 save percentage and a 2.71 goals against average.

“I learned to distance myself from pretty much every form of media,” Condon explained. “Twitter, Facebook, Instagram; I use those very sparsely. I don’t even have them on my phone anymore. I just learned that none of that external stuff matters.

“When you’re a goalie and you’re struggling and things aren’t going very well, you almost just have to distance yourself from the outcome of a game because you can’t go into a game as a goalie thinking ‘I have to win, I have to win, I have to win.’ It was a great lesson to learn, a great way to change my perspective on playing in the NHL and playing every other night and what it takes to be a starter. How to handle failure and how to deal with success.”

There were countless changes that season for Condon. Playing in a new league, grabbing the No. 1 job, working with his sixth different goalie coach in four years; everything from his technique down to his equipment was being altered.

Now on his third different set of pads in the past calendar year, he’s found something that works best for him.

“I was so concerned about having light gear and being weight efficient,” Condon explained. “When I went from the (Bauer) NXG to the Supreme S, I was moving a lot more and I wasn’t set. I was sliding a lot. That’s not the gear’s fault, that’s just me. I needed something with a little more weight behind my legs so I could feel like I was set and in a firm position.”

Now he wears the CCM Extreme Flex. The same setup as Price.

This year has been a rollercoaster ride for the former Princeton Tiger. After settling down for a full season in Montreal, it was back to the same hustle and bustle he’s used to.

Montreal decided to go with veteran Al Montoya as their backup and Condon was left out of the picture. With no room for him in La Belle Province, the waiver wire was the only option.

“(I) said my goodbyes as much as I could and drove home to Boston awaiting the next thing,” said Condon. “And that was finding out the waivers situation at noon the next day. You don’t really have time to think; you just go onto the next thing.”

From Montreal, it was on to Pittsburgh. And from Pittsburgh, it was on to Ottawa.

After the Penguins claimed Condon off waivers, they used him for a total of 20 minutes and then flipped him for a 5th rounder. A nice, tidy piece of business for the reigning Stanley Cup Champions.

But nonetheless, everyone involved got what they wanted. Pittsburgh acquired a pick once their regular duo was healthy again, the Senators got a much needed third goalie to help with Anderson’s unfortunate situation and Condon got to stay in the NHL.

“If I didn’t get claimed by Pittsburgh,” he said. “I’d probably be in the AHL, so that was a blessing in disguise.”

Fast forward to today and it’s looking like he may not just be in between jobs.

On Saturday, Ottawa placed Andrew Hammond on waivers, making Condon the solidified No. 2 for now.

It’s early, and he’s only played three games in a Senators uniform, but he’s looked rather sharp. Stats aside - although, it’s hard to not mention his .939 save percentage - Condon even managed to look impressive in the team’s 5-1 loss to Nashville on Thursday.

“This is the most experience I’ve ever had,” he said. “You just constantly keep building on your foundation. As you play more games, you just feel more and more comfortable.”

Hammond has yet to pass through waivers, and who knows exactly what management has in store for their goaltenders in the coming weeks, but as the days go by, and he continues to play well, Mike Condon might prove to be a Senator for much longer than anyone fathomed two and a half weeks ago.