Legendary hockey reporter and analyst Stan Fischler will write a weekly scrapbook for NHL.com this season. Fischler, known as "The Hockey Maven," will share his knowledge, humor and insight with readers each Wednesday.
Today he compares current New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist to Chuck Rayner, his predecessor from 1945-53.
The New York Rangers have been blessed with first-rate goaltending almost consistently from the time Hal Winkler manned the crease in their NHL debut, a 1-0 victory against the Montreal Maroons on Nov. 16, 1926.
Rangers goalies with their names on the Stanley Cup include Lorne Chabot (1928), Andy Aitkenhead (1933), Dave Kerr (1940) and Mike Richter (1944).
Henrik Lundqvist, who has more victories than any goalie in Rangers history, is the last goalie to get them to the Cup Final (2014) and win the Vezina Trophy (2011-12). But when it comes to picking one Rangers goalie from the past to compare with "King Henrik," Chuck Rayner of Sutherland, Saskatchewan, known during his NHL career as "Bonnie Prince Charlie," is my choice.
The label that might fit each the best could be, "Best Goalies Who Never Won the Stanley Cup."
Of course, when it comes to Rayner, a few other sidebars could be added. One in particular stands out.
The man who put his life on the line as a sailor in the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1973 despite never having a winning season in the NHL. He won the Hart Trophy as the League MVP in 1949-50 by playing well enough to help the Rangers finish fourth, then got them into double overtime in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final before losing to a superior Detroit Red Wings team.
In contrast, Lundqvist has had a boatload of winning seasons; however, like Rayner, he has yet to win the Cup. The closest Lundqvist came to a championship was five years ago, when the Rangers lost the Cup Final to the Los Angeles Kings in five games.
The bond the two share is their combination of skill and boundless popularity. Author Andrew Podnieks explained how Rayner, despite his underwhelming numbers, managed to earn induction into the Hall.
"Such was Rayner's reputation," Podnieks observed, "his remarkable ability and resolve to stay with an awful Rangers team, that the [Hall of Fame] Selection Committee knew in this case that his stats could not stay in the way of his induction."
Although it's not generally known, Rayner was a World War II hero. He served on the Canadian frigate HMCS New Glasgow, making 22 escort trips across the U-boat-infested Atlantic Ocean.
"Charlie knew all the while there were German U-boats in the waters lurking to sink any merchant ships they could," Podnieks wrote.
While Lundqvist has confined his heroism to the ice, his devotion to the Rangers organization matches that of Rayner. Selected in the seventh round (No. 205) in the 2000 NHL Draft, Lundqvist beat out Kevin Weekes for the starting job when he came to North America from Sweden in the fall of 2005, just as Rayner had done with incumbent Jim Henry nearly six decades earlier.
What followed was a spate of seasons during which Lundqvist piled up superb performances. He won the Vezina Trophy in 2011-12 and became the first goalie in NHL history to win at least 30 games 11 times in his first 12 seasons (he had 24 victories in 2012-13, when the season was shortened to 48 games).
Among his accomplishments, Lundqvist has the most NHL wins by a goalie born in Europe (449) and helped get the Rangers within three wins of the Stanley Cup during a valiant 2014 effort against the Kings.
As his career began winding down, Lundqvist rejected trades -- just as Rayner had six decades earlier. "Win or lose," Lundqvist insisted, "I want to stay a Ranger."
So it is with Henrik Lundqvist, and so it was with Chuck Rayner.
It would be fitting if "King Henrik" eventually joins "Bonnie Prince Charlie" in the Hall of Fame.