TORONTO -- In order for the Boston Bruins to have success in the Stanley Cup playoffs, their best players have to be great. So far in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, that's been the case.
The line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton have combined for 17 points and have returned to playing the style of hockey that helped the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2011. But another major reason the Bruins have a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven series is the play of the team's fourth line, specifically Daniel Paille.
"He's been great this year," Horton said. "Through the regular season he had a great year. It was obviously a great goal [in Game 3] and he's been good."
Paille's relentless style of hustle is nearly unmatched, and he should be considered one of the biggest unsung heroes in recent history for the Bruins. Paille never takes a shift off, and the results he produces at both ends of the ice are critical to Boston's success.
"He's underrated," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "There's no doubt about that. People say, 'Why is he consistent? Why is he so good?' Because he's underrated. People forget he's a former first-round pick, and like many of them, you have offensive numbers to show in junior hockey, but then you get to the NHL and you get molded into a top defensive player, kind of what [former Montreal Canadien Guy] Carbonneau did in his career.
"He's been really good for us, very reliable and I'm able to move him up in the lineup when need be and put him on some top lines and he's served that well. He's been a real good addition to that line since he's come in. He's provided us with speed on the fourth line, he's provided us with some scoring and obviously with some great penalty killing."
Because of his jet-like speed, Paille is able to create plenty of quality scoring chances. Critics have said he has trouble finishing those chances, and that if he could score on a more consistent basis he could easily be a 20-goal scorer. He recorded 19 during the 2007-2008 season while playing for the Buffalo Sabres. Since he's been with Boston, the most he's reached in a season is 10, which he's accomplished twice, including this season.
"The biggest thing with guys being able to score goals versus struggling, it's all about confidence," Julien said. "They don't lose their skill level overnight and they don't regain it overnight. It's all about confidence and I think he's played well. Even last year, at times, I made him a healthy scratch because he wasn't at the top of his game, but he understood what had to be done and he reacted, got back in the lineup and played well. This year he's been real consistent. It's been a real good year for Dan from the get-go.
During Boston's 5-2 win in Game 3 on Monday at Air Canada Centre, Paille showcased his skill set and hockey sense when he scored a pivotal shorthanded goal to give the Bruins a 4-1 lead at 16:37 of the second period. Considered one of the best penalty killers in the league, Paille stole the puck, skated in on Toronto goalie James Reimer and scored a shorty, which exhilarated the Bruins' bench.
"I get excited for it," Paille said with a huge smile on his face. "We don't score too many during the year, so when the opportunity comes you try to take advantage of it. When it went in, I was excited. I never looked back and continued to skate towards the net and was able to make a move."
Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron is a close friend of Paille and the two room together on the road. When Paille is producing the way he can, the teams feeds off his energy.
"He's got a lot of confidence going and it's great to see because he's a great player," Bergeron said. "He gets a lot of chances just with his speed and [Monday] was a perfect example. He's got a lot of confidence, so the puck's going in and it's great to have that for us."