New linemate Chris Kelly said that winger Daniel Paille is a bit idiosyncratic. He’s always fixing, fidgeting, and adjusting his equipment, tying a skate or tugging at a glove.
Paille can give it the full Nomar Garciaparra obsessive-compulsive routine before each shift if he keeps playing like this. What Paille, the fourth-line grinder-turned-sniper, has fixed is the Bruins’ flagging third. He has also adjusted the view of the Stanley Cup Final, as the Bruins have gone from down, 1-0, in the series to on top, 2-1, after Paille scored the game-winner for the second straight game.
Paille scored the first goal in the Bruins’ 2-0 domination of the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 on Monday.
Most of the season Paille rode on the Bruins’ fourth line with partners in crime and wine Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton — the line has earned the sobriquet of the Merlot Line. But with Campbell out of commission with a broken leg suffered in the Eastern Conference finals, both the third and fourth lines needed a jolt.
Bruins coach Claude Julien threw together the patchwork line of Paille-Kelly-Tyler Seguin. The hockey hodgepodge has made Paille into Ken Hodge.
“[Paille] is great whatever line he plays on,” said Kelly. “He plays the game the way the game should be played. He works hard. He finished his checks. He capitalizes on his opportunities. He skates extremely well.”
Perhaps, it shouldn’t be that shocking that Paille has gone from fourth-liner to headliner. He is not your typical dirty worker. He has embraced the role of rakish bottom-six forward, but it wasn’t his destiny.
He was a 2002 first-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres, drafted 20th overall. He twice scored 30 goals in junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League. He was the captain of Team Canada at the 2004 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. In 2007-08, he scored 19 goals for Buffalo.
“That’s not an easy feat to do, especially the way he plays,” said Kelly. “I don’t think he gets any power-play chances, so for him to score [almost] 20 goals, they’re hard-working goals. He’s got great instincts, shoots the puck well, and skates terrific.”
Paille is no stranger to the back of the net. It’s just not his role on the Bruins.
Still, during the regular-season, Paille had 10 goals and seven assists in 46 games. His 10 goals were equal to both David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron, and were three more than Milan Lucic netted during the lockout-shortened season.
Perhaps, we should have seen this coming.
Paille, who has four goals and four assists this postseason, is the epitome of what makes the Bruins such an enjoyable team to watch.
Other teams may have more talent or bigger names, but the Bruins function as a unit with precision and purpose. They make the type of melodious music together that they could never make on their on. There are no solo artists in this band of Black-and-Gold brothers.
The ad hoc third line, which accounted for both Boston goals in Game 2, showed the same offensive proficiency on its home ice.
Paille gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead at 2:13 of the second period. He plucked a puck that bounced off the boards away from Chicago forward Dave Bolland, wheeled into the right circle, and snapped a turnaround shot past Corey Crawford.
“It’s just going in,” said Paille, when asked to explain his offensive outburst. “You get shots every game and sometimes they go in. I’m able to shoot the puck quick. I think the goalie hasn’t had time to react. I think it helps.”
Paille also played a part in the Bruins doubling their lead at 14:05 of the second period with a power-play strike from Patrice Bergeron. Paille set up the score by drawing a penalty.
With 10 seconds left on a Boston power play, Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson took down a rushing Paille at the left post, drawing a tripping call and giving Boston a brief 5-on-3 advantage.
As Bolland, who had the first Chicago penalty, was skating back into play, Bergeron, parked at the left post, took a cross-ice feed from Jaromir Jagr and popped it in.
The way Tuukka Rask was playing, that was more than enough offense for one evening.
Understated, Paille is as happy killing a penalty — he had 2:18 of shorthanded time as part of a Bruins PK that has nullified 26 straight opponent power plays — as he is scoring goals.
The speed and hustle of the newly configured third line has changed the complexion of the series.
“That’s what we’ve got to do, especially our line in order to be effective, we have to skate and hustle,” said Paille. “It’s been good for us so far, and we want to keep going.”
The guy who admitted he is always tying his skates had a big part in untying the series.
Now, it’s the Blackhawks who are doing some nervous fidgeting and looking to do some adjusting of their own.Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.