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MacTavish among Fischler's best underrated players of 20th century

Murdoch, Metz, Marshall, Duff, Tonelli also played big roles in NHL despite little attention

by Stan Fischler / Special to NHL.com

Legendary hockey reporter and analyst Stan Fischler is writing 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 looks at six of the most underrated players of the 20th century:

 

Murray Murdoch

Murdoch, a reliable left wing on the early New York Rangers who was overshadowed by future Hall of Famers such as Bill Cook and Frank Boucher, was the NHL's first iron man. He played every one of a possible 508 games during his 11 NHL seasons, all with New York. Murdoch scored two goals in nine games for the Rangers' 1928 Stanley Cup-winning team and had his biggest offensive postseason with six points (two goals, four assists) in eight games when New York won again in 1933.

 

Nick Metz

Metz, a forward, skated on four Stanley Cup-winning teams with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1940s and was a key contributor on each, though he was often in the background behind players like center Syl Apps, forwards Charlie Conacher and Joe Primeau, and goalie Turk Broda. Along with his kid brother, Don Metz, Nick was part of the 1942 Maple Leafs, the only team ever to lose the first three games of the Cup Final and then win four in a row. His versatility earned him the nickname, "The Handyman."

 

Donnie Marshall

Marshall was a scorer in junior hockey and the minor leagues, but when the Montreal Canadiens called him up to the NHL in 1954-55, they had more than enough offense. They needed defense-minded forwards, and that's the role Marshall filled for nine seasons in Montreal. While players like Jean Beliveau, Maurice Richard and Bernie Geoffrion got most of the attention, Marshall quietly became one of the NHL's best checkers and penalty-killers, helping Montreal win five straight Stanley Cup championships from 1956-60.

 

Dick Duff

Duff was a left wing who had a knack for being a quiet contributor on championship teams. He was part of two Cup-winners with Toronto in the early 1960s but took a back seat to players like left wing Frank Mahovlich, center Red Kelly and goalie Johnny Bower. Duff's best moment in Toronto was his Cup-winning goal at 14:14 in the third period of Game 6 in the 1962 Final against the Chicago Blackhawks. He won four more championships with Montreal in the late 1960s as a role player behind stars like Beliveau and Henri Richard.

 

John Tonelli

The New York Islanders dynasty of the early 1980s was built around cornerstone players such as Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, Denis Potvin and Billy Smith. But there was no way those Islanders would have won four consecutive championships without Tonelli, a rugged two-way left wing. Tonelli's biggest moment came on April 13, 1982, when he scored the tying and overtime goals against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the fifth and deciding game of their first-round playoff series after the Penguins had pushed New York to the brink of elimination.

 

Craig MacTavish

MacTavish is probably best known today as the last NHL player to play without a helmet, or perhaps as the center who won the last face-off for the Rangers when they won the Cup in 1994. But he was one of the NHL's most effective checkers and penalty-killers while playing behind Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier when the Edmonton Oilers were winning the Stanley Cup in the late 1980s, and was a key addition as a role player for the 1994 Rangers. MacTavish played the game smart, strong and usually was a winner.

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