Put in tough spot, new Flyers coach picks Matt Murray over Carter Hart for Canada starting job
Coach Alain Vigneault found himself in a bit of an awkward spot in the lead-up to the IIHF World Championships, which begin later this week in Slovakia.
On April 10, Vigneault was named head coach of Team Canada for the tournament. Five days later, he was named head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Last week, when Team Canada named its roster for the tournament, its top two goalies were Matt Murray of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Carter Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Murray is a two-time Stanley Cup champion with 161 NHL games to his credit. Hart had an extraordinarily promising rookie season last year, but he’s played a total of 31 NHL games. New Jersey’s Mackenzie Blackwood is the third-stringer.
Comparing resumes, it would have been almost impossible for Vigneault to justify starting Hart over Murray.
This put him in the position where all he could do was stand in front of TSN’s cameras and essentially say that if he had to win one game tonight, he’d pick the goalie of his new team’s fiercest rival over his own promising young netminder.
So that’s what he did on Sunday.
“Matt’s played in big moments, has won big games, pressure games,” Vigneault said. “There’s no doubt that he’s our No. 1 goaltender.”
Vigneault left himself one out, noting that a tournament schedule that includes 10 games in 17 games dictates more than one goalie will see playing time.
He also seemed to hint that Murray was at his best when he had Marc-Andre Fleury playing behind him.
“We also have two good, young goaltenders that are pushing,” Vigneault said. “Matt’s been real good at responding when challenged. We’re going to need him to be at his best. I like his enthusiasm. He seems to be real focused and he wants to be here. That’s a big part of having success.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .