Pentti Lund NYR vs DET

Legendary hockey reporter Stan Fischler writes a weekly scrapbook for Fischler, known as "The Hockey Maven," shares his humor and insight with readers each Wednesday.

This week is a tale about an under-.500 Cinderella Rangers team that came within a half inch from winning the Stanley Cup for the fourth time in 1950. A mistaken last-second face-off change finally doomed their championship challenge.

The Rangers had no business being considered a Stanley Cup contender in the spring of 1950. Coached by Lynn Patrick, they barely squeezed into a Stanley Cup Playoff berth and finished the regular season an unimpressive 28-31-11.

No less intimidating was the fact that their first-round foe, the Montreal Canadiens, was paced by legendary scorer Maurice "Rocket" Richard and goalie Bill Durnan, who entered the opening round with six Vezina Trophies to his credit.

In a desperate move to contain the explosive Richard, Patrick assigned a Finland-born left wing, Pentti Lund, the thankless job. Nobody expected Lund to shut down the Rocket nor for New York to win the series.

"But suddenly everything broke right for us," Lund said, "and especially for me. The only goal Richard scored over the five-game series came on their power play when I was on the bench. Otherwise, Rocket went 0-for-5 with me checking him and I scored five goals against Durnan."

NYR Chuck Rayner Don Raleigh Pennti Lund,

Having stunned the mighty Habs 4-1 in the semifinals, the Rangers faced the first-place Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final. Many reporters believed that Detroit would sweep the best-of-7 series in four straight games.

"Getting to the second round was a once-in-a-lifetime thing," Lund said, "and nobody had to tell us why we were underdogs."

There were actually several reasons why nobody bet on the Rangers. For one, the Red Wings had an NHL-leading 88 points, 21 more than the Rangers. The Motor City arsenal scored 229 goals, 59 more than New York.

"Then there was the matter of our home-ice disadvantage," Rangers center Don "Bones" Raleigh told authors John Halligan and John Kreiser in their book, "Game of My Life."

"The circus forced us out of the Garden, so the League gave us two 'home' games in Toronto out of the best-of-7 series. The people there cheered for us, and we won the second game, but lost the third. Still, we weren't discouraged even though we knew we had to win three games in Detroit. One thing we knew we had going for us was goalie Charlie Rayner. He gave us a chance to win every game."


Adhering to their "grin and bear it" philosophy, the Rangers emerged from their two home games in Toronto down 2-1 yet reveled in their underdog role. Back in Detroit for the remaining games of the Final, they exploited their assets to the extreme.

One was their line of Lund, Raleigh and Ed Slowinski, and the other was Chuck Rayner's Horatius at the Bridge goaltending. Game 4 at Detroit's Olympia left the home crowd stunned.

"We had a surprise," wrote Rangers general manager Frank Boucher in his autobiography, "When the Rangers Were Young."

"With the score locked at 3-3 during regulation time, Lund set up Raleigh, who knotted the series by scoring after 8:54 of overtime. Two nights later they combined again -- with the score 1-1 -- Raleigh beat Harry Lumley after only 1:38 of overtime. Now we only needed a single victory to win the Cup."

With a two-goal lead in Game 6, the Rangers appeared on the verge of scoring a huge upset, but penalties hurt them, enabling the Red Wings to rally for a series-tying 5-4 victory.

Alas, the pulsating script was repeated in the decisive Game 7.

A 2-0 Rangers lead in the first period was negated by second-period penalties and by the time regulation play ended, the score was 3-3. Nobody scored in the first overtime thanks to Rayner's acrobatics.

It was in the second sudden-death session when Raleigh came close to being an overtime hero for the third time.

"Twice, 'Bones' was in alone on Lumley," Rayner recalled, "but the puck rolled over his stick both times."

Said Raleigh: "One of them went over my stick and the other hit the post or the crossbar. To have the Stanley Cup so close and not get it was terrible."


The Rangers still had a chance when a critical face-off was held deep in their zone. Originally, New York center Buddy O'Connor was to take the draw but -- against his players' wishes -- Coach Patrick chose Edgar Laprade to replace him.

For the New York, it was the kiss of death.

Seconds before the linesperson dropped the puck, Detroit center George Gee motioned his wing, Pete Babando, to move back five feet. Babando obliged and with surgical precision, Gee delivered the puck and Babado took a screened shot past Rayner.

"It was heartbreaking," Raleigh said, "and the funny thing was that Babando later played with me on the Rangers."

Nor was that the end of the tribulation. Patrick's unexpected move would ruin the Rangers' playoff hopes for five straight years and eventually cost Boucher his job.

"Nobody could have done a better job of coaching the Rangers than Patrick," Boucher wrote, "but in that Detroit series I sensed that something more was bothering him."

There was. During the Final, Bruins GM Art Ross undercut Boucher and offered Patrick a similar gig in Boston. It was an unfortunate move, especially since Boucher coached the 1940 Cup-winning Rangers for who Patrick had starred.

"Before skipping out on us, Lynn said he felt a 'loyalty' to me, since I started him off in coaching," Boucher lamented.

That loyalty evaporated when Lynn signed with Boston in 1950. The deserted Boucher never could find an adequate replacement. First, he tried 1940 Cup-winner Neil Colville, then-Rangers and future hockey Hall of Fame right wing Bill Cook and, finally, Muzz Patrick. Lynn's kid brother.

Meanwhile the Lynn-coached Bruins clinched a playoff berth every season from 1950-51 through 1954-55. Boucher's Rangers failed to reach the postseason in each.

The devastating effect of Patrick's walkout came to an end in May 1955, when Boucher was fired and never managed an NHL club again.

As for Lynn Patrick, the closest he ever came to winning the Stanley Cup was on that fateful night at Detroit's Olympia, when Raleigh's shot was a half-inch away from beating Lumley.

Decades later, Rayner -- long into retirement -- was asked if he remembered anything about Raleigh's shot that hit the post and then went the wrong way.

"Honestly," Rayner concluded, "I think about it every day!"