On Wednesday night in Game 1 against the Maple Leafs, when Gregory Campbell settled the puck at the red line, Daniel Paille didn’t look up, and he didn’t call for the puck.
Instead, Paille buried his head and raced toward the right corner, where he beat John-Michael Liles to the puck. Paille knew it was where Campbell planned to deposit his dump-in.
Moments later, after James Reimer stuffed Campbell’s wraparound bid, Wade Redden slipped the Bruins’ first goal under the Toronto goalie’s left elbow.
“Especially when they see me skating, I know exactly where they’re going to put it,” Paille said on Thursday at TD Garden. “I had great support from [Campbell]. He tried to wrap it there and it was perfect. It went right to [Redden] on the play. They tried to block the shot and screened the goalie for us. It squeaked through.”
It was a play the Bruins often execute. They know Paille’s speed gives him the edge over a defenseman who must turn to retrieve the puck. The Bruins even fling the puck into a corner from behind the red line, confident that Paille will get to it first and wipe out an icing call.
The fourth line of Paille, Campbell, and Shawn Thornton has a history of playoff success. They stamped an exclamation point on the 2010-11 season during the first period of Game 7 of the Cup Final against Vancouver. When the Canucks were rolling, the fourth line held their ground and took the fight to Vancouver.
In the Bruins’ 4-1 win on Wednesday, it appeared to be a continuation of the Vancouver series. The fourth line did just about everything right. They won puck battles. They created turnovers. They initiated the forecheck. They blasted bodies. When Frazer McLaren and Colton Orr, Toronto’s fourth-line bruisers, tried to flex their muscles, the Bruins didn’t bite.
In the second period, a stout shift by the fourth line gave the Bruins momentum. Once they retreated to the bench, Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Nathan Horton rolled over the boards with confidence. Seconds later, Krejci gave the Bruins a 3-1 lead.
The fourth line didn’t get any credit for the goal. But it initiated the rhythm to lead into a goal-scoring shift.
“It’s good to see the team feed off it,” Paille said. “That’s what we try to do. We know we’re not going to score many goals, especially in the playoffs. That’s what we want to do — continue to wear guys down and create some energy for our team.”
Paille and his linemates were nervous. But they transformed that tension into energy.
“Nerves are there for everyone,” Paille said. “They’re there for me. They’re there for everyone else. I think a lot of players like to thrive on those nerves and go with adrenaline.”
In Game 1, the Bruins outperformed the Leafs at every turn. Tuukka Rask (19 saves) was sharper than Reimer (36 stops). The line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and Tyler Seguin stymied Toronto’s top threesome of James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, and Phil Kessel, while generating offensive chances.
But the biggest difference may have been between the teams’ fourth lines. McLaren and Orr, flanking Jay McClement, aimed to intimidate the Bruins. But the speed, skill, and chemistry of Paille, Campbell, and Thornton rendered McLaren and Orr irrelevant.
Toronto’s two musclemen chased the game. Neither McLaren (one shot, two hits, 7:46 of ice time) nor Orr (two shots, three hits, 16 penalty minutes, 8:11 of action) helped the Leafs turn back the Bruins’ roaring attack.
The only time they made noise was after the whistle. After Johnny Boychuk flattened Mikhail Grabovski with a clean hit at 3:15 of the third period, Orr came calling for retribution, blasting Boychuk from behind. Orr was tagged with roughing, cross-checking, and 10-minute misconduct penalties.
At the end of the game, McLaren was called for roughing.
McLaren and Orr may feel the consequences of their shortcomings. During practice on Thursday at Boston University’s Walter Brown Arena, they skated on a spare line, indicating they may be healthy scratches in Game 2. McClement moved to left wing, skating alongside Grabovski and Leo Komarov.
There are few fourth lines in the league as thorough as Boston’s. Thornton has made his reputation as an enforcer. But there aren’t many tough guys with as much hockey sense as Thornton. The right wing makes smart plays, is responsible defensively, and places pucks where his linemates can hunt them down. Teams regularly scratch their enforcers during the playoffs, when fights rarely take place. But Thornton has earned his spot because of how well he plays with his linemates.
For stretches of this season, because of injuries to some and ineffective play of others, Paille and Campbell were temporary top-six forwards.
When Lucic was a healthy scratch against Pittsburgh April 20, Paille took his spot alongside Krejci and Horton. Paille also skated on the third line earlier in the season.
When Bergeron suffered his concussion, Campbell was promoted to serve as a top-two center.
Their promotions reflected their talents. Paille, Buffalo’s first-round pick in 2002, is one of the Bruins’ fastest skaters. Campbell doesn’t shy away from the danger areas. Campbell is the team’s best shot-tipper, often tabbed for six-on-five, net-front duty.
On other teams, Paille and Campbell might be third-liners. But because of the Bruins’ depth, they play on the fourth line. The Bruins would have it no other way.