Notes From the Rink: Condon, Anderson, Crosby

What you need to know on a Senators game day.

After Craig Anderson played three games in four nights against a couple division rivals, Mike Condon will get the nod tonight as the Senators welcome the Pittsburgh Penguins to town.

Although Senators head coach Guy Boucher said it was simply just time to give Anderson a break, Condon’s numbers against Pittsburgh are far more favourable than Anderson’s.

“It just falls at a moment where it’s good because it is a team that (Condon’s) done well against here at home,” Boucher explained during his press conference just before noon. “It’s just a bonus on the positive side, but really, if it was another team it’d be the same.”

While Anderson is 5-8-3 lifetime versus Pittsburgh with a 91.7 save percentage - not to mention he allowed 7 goals on 43 shots in his only appearance against the Penguins this season - Condon has a career 93.8 save percentage and allowed only 1 goal on 30 shots the last time the teams played.

Seeing as Boucher and Anderson, himself, have felt fine with the team’s No. 1 taking the crease in both games of a back-to-back multiple times this year, this might be Condon’s second last opportunity to get in before the playoffs. Once Ottawa clinches a postseason birth and has a hold on home ice advantage in the first round, then maybe Condon garners a couple more starts, but as of right now, starting against Pittsburgh tonight is the only guarantee.

Anderson’s Vezina Campaign

If it weren’t for the fact that Anderson has missed so much time and will barely reach the 40-game mark in starts this season, he might be a front runner for the Vezina Trophy.

Heck, he still could be a top-3 candidate when the nominations are announced, but it’ll be hard to argue with putting Braden Holtby, Sergei Bobrovsky and Devan Dubnyk ahead of the Senators netminder.

Nonetheless, the 35-year-old has had a memorable season for many different reasons.

“In my opinion,” said Mark Borowiecki after practice today. “And I’m not just saying this because he’s my teammate, I think he’s the best goalie in the NHL. Look at what he does night in and night out, the way he plays, I don’t think there are too many guys that can do what he does.”

Anderson’s 92.8 save percentage has him second in the league amongst goaltenders who have started at least 30 games and he holds the best road save percentage in the entire league.

Knowing the team is headed to the postseason barring a historical collapse, Anderson may be one of the most valuable players in the playoffs. He always ups his game when it matters the most. In 27 career playoff games, he’s rocking a 93.3 save percentage.

“You just get this feeling sometimes in games when he’s on,” Borowiecki explained. “He’s just so on, so dialled in, there’s nothing getting by him. It seems like especially in those big games and in the playoffs he just gets locked in. He’s just got so much natural talent and ability that when he really does battle like that he’s tough to beat.”

Throughout this nightmare of a year for Anderson, one thing at the rink has stayed consistent: the support he’s received from his team. Whether it’s the players in the locker room, the coaching staff or the front office, no one has doubted the Illinois native and everyone has stuck behind him.

“On the ice, you’re willing to put your face in front of a puck for that guy,” Borowiecki added.

If not the Vezina, then maybe the Masterton. Of course, though the engraving on the trophy would read “Craig Anderson,” the win would be a two-person accomplishment.

It would be quite the moment to see Nicholle and Craig up on stage in Las Vegas accepting the award together.

Crosby Comes to Town

The biggest visiting crowd of the non-original-six teams is always the Penguins. And for a very good reason.

It’s extremely hard to find a better storyline than simply that of the best player in the world arriving in Ottawa when the Pens come to town.

Sidney Crosby’s one-handed goal against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night just added more fuel to the fire that was his presence in the nation’s capital.

“I don’t think many guys think (to do) that,” said Bobby Ryan. “You’re probably going to try and pull that puck to your forehand more times than not, because he did have the inside positioning, so he could’ve, but to think to do that, that’s pretty incredible.”

Boucher, who had a front row seat for a couple of Crosby’s early years when he served as an assistant coach with the Rimouski Océanic, was instantly brought back to his days  in the QMJHL.

“That one-hand thing, I’ve seen him do that in junior, too. So it’s impressive, but am I surprised? Absolutely not.”

It sounded like the 45-year-old could go on for days about his former player.

“Two years with him, day in, day out, games, practices, I mean, let’s start with the first exhibition game: the guy got 12 points. That’s why they call him Darryl, for Darryl Sittler.

“I’ve seen some sick stuff, like, even stuff he hasn’t done yet. Sometimes you rewind the tape and go ‘how did that happen?’ Of course we had him do the flip, get the puck on his stick from behind the net, I’ve seen him twist the puck from between his legs and grab it and flip it. He hasn’t done that in a game yet, but I’m pretty sure by the time his career ends, we’ll see that.”

Crosby’s league-leading 41 goals and outstanding total of 81 points through 66 games have critics claiming this might be the best we’ve seen of the 29-year-old’s 12 seasons in the NHL.

So for the third time this season, the Senators have to ask themselves the question every team ponders at least twice a year: how in the world do you contain Sidney Crosby?

“He’s going to create, right?” Ryan explained. “You have to live with what he’s going to create on his own.

“You’ve just got to try and take away time and space and not give him the advantage. That half a second he got there gave him the opportunity to think of that play.”

So far, Ottawa has done a fine job focusing on No. 87. Crosby has been held to a single point in two previous matches this season.

Puck drop is 7:30 p.m. ET at the Canadian Tire Centre.

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