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Before the Shot: Condon’s Different Kind of Aggressive

Before the Shot: Condon’s Different Kind of Aggressive

In last week’s Before the Shot analysis, I discussed the importance of gathering information when goalies have time. The main point was goalies are able to make good decisions in a short amount of time when they take advantage of the time they have to gather information about what’s happening in the play.

On Wednesday, Montreal Canadiens goalie Mike Condon perfectly executed a shoulder check, noticing Pittsburgh Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis open for a cross-crease pass from Sidney Crosby.

Condon’s reaction before the shot is a key reminder for goalies about how gathering information can help them find balance between being passive and aggressive on cross-crease passes.

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Here, we see Condon following Dupuis pass around the boards to Crosby:

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As soon as Condon switches from one side of the ice to the other and lands on his post, he performs a shoulder check. This immediately provides Condon with a snap shot of what options are available to Crosby on the far side of the ice and anywhere in the middle or near side.

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Now, look at how close Crosby’s pass was in the crease. I’ve drawn a line to show how much deeper the puck travels on its way to Dupuis’ stick.

We often talk about goalies being contained with their movements and managing their space. In a nutshell, this refers to goalies keeping themselves in position to defend against most of the options they’re faced with.

On the flip side, however, we also need to look at times when goalies might consider being more aggressive, such as using a half poke check or stepping out and gaining depth to take away more net space if there are no far side options available.

This is a perfect example of when a goalie can be more aggressive and why I think Condon’s decision to try to intercept Crosby’s pass was a smart one. As you can see, the puck is within Condon’s reach and his eyes are on it. Now, it’s clear that Condon just missed the puck, but I don’t think the result should take away from Condon’s effort.

If we look at the bigger picture, intercepting passes can happen in many different ways. The first step, as Condon showed, is having the ability to gather information. Secondly, it’s important to keep in mind how close the puck ends up being to a goalie’s stick blade, which can be in the blue or white ice (in this situation, Crosby’s pass is in the blue ice). Lastly, understand how much reach a goalie has.

Depending on all of these factors – potential threats, how close the puck is to the stick blade, and reach – goalies can weigh the options of being more passive or aggressive when it comes to defending against cross crease passes and having an active stick.

It’s important to develop hockey IQ

Naturally, a goalie’s primary job is to stop the puck. But, as goalies get older, it becomes more important that they develop hockey IQ. Not just goaltending IQ – hockey IQ. Part of having good hockey IQ is finding a balance between being passive and more aggressive, and the only way to do that is by gathering information.

Some situations, like the one Condon was in, will prompt a goalie to be more aggressive. Having an active stick and intercepting a pass is just one example of being more “aggressive”.

When a goalie intercepts a pass with their stick, it won’t show up on a stats sheet. But in the eyes of coaches, teammates, and scouts, there’s tremendous value in being able to break up a play before it even happens. That’s not just smart goaltending, that’s smart hockey.

~ Eli Rassi is currently the Director of Goaltending Development with the Carleton Place Jr. “A” Canadians in the Central Canada Hockey League. He is also an instructor and consultant with Complete Goaltending Development (CGD).  CGD offers on-ice group, semi-private and private training programs, and consulting services for minor hockey associations, for goaltenders at all levels in Ottawa at its training facility in the city’s West end, the Complete Hockey Development Centre. For more information, please visit or

About The Author

Elias Rassi

~ Eli Rassi is currently the goaltending coach with the Carleton Place Jr. “A” Canadians in the Central Canada Hockey League. He is also an instructor and consultant with Complete Goaltending Development (CGD). CGD offers on-ice group, semi-private and private training programs, and consulting services for minor hockey associations, for goaltenders at all levels in Ottawa at its training facility in the city’s West end, the Complete Hockey Development Centre. For more information, please visit or


  1. Ant

    To me, this particular situation is more of an example of a lack of trust or comfort in the team’s defensive system and tendencies. Condon saw the impending pass to his blocker side from one of the league’s most prolific passers and decided his defence would not/could not take away the pass so he chose to try and do it himself. In doing so he 1) missed the poke check and 2) open himself up on the blocker side by not getting a good seal to the post or the ice. This is a classic example of a goalie feeling like he has to play his own D and doing more than he needs to. Had he trusted the white jerseys in the immediate crease-area to take away the pass or simply tie up Dupuis’ stick, Condon could have focused his post-pass, pre-shot movement to getting across cleanly and taking away the far side of the net, an easy save in theory.

    • Eli Rassi


      Thanks for your comment. It certainly does look like Condon was trying to do two things at once (intercept the pass and slide across in his butterfly). I think him being aware that Dupuis was open led him to attempt to intercept the pass. When the puck is travelling that close to the crease, I don’t believe there’s any harm in trying,


  2. Joe Feeney

    I see this play a bit differently, as an old school goalie. Condon followed the play well and looked to do as he should have, prevent the pass from getting over to the shooter. He did not use the most effective method. In this case, turning the stick open, using the backhand of the blade would have been better to prevent/stop this pass, and then tie up the play. He could have also been a nit more aggressive and actually played the pass as a shot and used a butterfly or kick save to drive the puck in a different direction.

    It is clear that he tried to play the pass off the front of the blade, while executing a butterfly slide over to cover the post, the shot just got over his pad to score.

    • Eli Rassi

      Hey Joe,

      Thanks for your comment. I noticed Condon’s stick blade, too. But, Crosby passed the puck over the goal line. I’d say the majority of goalies typically rotate their sticks as soon as the puck crosses the goal line because it’s then in proper position for their stance and most other movements that they have to make. If Crosby stayed behind the goal line, we might have seen Condon turn his stick blade over, as you described.


      • Ryan

        Another thing about turning your stick over in that situation is if your don’t get your stick past 90 degrees in front of you; you can deflect it back between your legs. That was a crisp pass, not giving Condon much time to rotate his wrist around to open his blade to the backhand. Squaring up to Crosby and using a butterfly to intercept the pass could have worked, but he’d be left with a rebound being kicked out to the slot while he is down facing the corner. Not ideal, but better that the cross crease pass I guess.

        Great analysis Eli, keep them coming.

  3. Doug

    You have to wonder, if he turns to be square, as Crosby walks out of the corner, does Crosby even have a passing lane, forcing Dupuis to cycle through the zone and take away the back door threat? I think sometimes we get so wrapped up in sealing off the post, or the inverted V versus dead arm one knee, that we forget that a goalie playing a solid angle with a quick tight butterfly, playing the percentages can visually eliminate options for a player, and force that player to make a decision he doesn’t feel is ideal…in this case, moving up the half boards, while the Montreal D has a chance to back check and regroup, instead of throwing a pretty ridiculous back door pass.

    • Daniel

      A good point, but the one reason I believe that we goalies don’t do that is simply because of rebound control. If the puck hits does in fact go right pad (in this situation) the only options are to rebound it straight up the slot or right back to the shooter, neither of which are exactly preferable. A good thought though, and I agree that sometimes we get a bit too hung up on holding tight to our posts!

  4. Phil Power

    Great analysis of the situation, Eli.

  5. M

    I’d argue that based on where Crosby and Dupuis were that staying back on crease and looking for break up the pass was the higher percentage play.

    Condon knew Dupuis was open in the scoring area near the post, and that a pass to reach him would have to pass deep in the crease area to reach him. The play was predictable and controllable by Condon (who, supposing that poke check had worked, would have poked the puck up to #14 Pleklanec for a breakout). Leaving the passing lane to “bait” Crosby into making a pass that Condon felt he could intercept, or Plan B, slide across to square up to the area where Dupuis was sure to take the shot from or Plan C, Dupuis misses the pass entirely. Didn’t work in this case, but that’s why save percentages aren’t 1.000.

    Feels like a better % play than squaring up and then reacting to whatever Crosby does next (come across the point for a snapshot maybe?) with Dupuis on the doorstep for a rebound – especially for an NHL goaltender who should have every confidence in his ability to intercept a pass.

  6. Richard St-Onge

    All good observations and responses here.

    As I see it and would have played it myself:
    Condon was aware of Crosby’s presence. And so, Condon kind of cheated be playing half square to the puck carrier. In doing so, instead of cutting off the pass altogether (be it with the poke check or paddle down), he chose to redirect the puck with his stick blade onto the other side, all the while sliding over to prevent the pick-up and tip in the net, at which he failed.

    I see this problem quite a bit in the pros, surprizingly, as they tend to follow with the puck instead of getting involved and taking over when possible. Even though a goalie’s place is in the nets, He/she shouldn’t be 100% restricted to remain there. Get into the action and take control, become that extra D-man (so to speak).