BOSTON -- A major reason the Boston Bruins are two wins away from their second Stanley Cup in three seasons is the play of forward Daniel Paille, who has emerged as an unsung hero while helping to form a successful third line with Tyler Seguin and Chris Kelly.
Paille scored his second consecutive game-winning goal -- and third of the playoffs -- in the Bruins' 2-0 Game 3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. He's also helping Seguin and Kelly find their games.
The energy line might have been broken up by Gregory Campbell's injury, but Paille has recreated it with new linemates.
"As far as the line, Piesy has been moving his feet. Right now, he's got a hot stick," Seguin said after Game 3. "I'm trying to do the same, and Kells is playing very responsible. I think we're just buying the system."
Paille's speed has taken over, allowing him and his linemates to enter the offensive zone and often gain possession. Shawn Thornton, Paille's regular linemate of the past three seasons, joked that Paille is utilizing his speed more to avoid playing with him again.
"He definitely gets there and he's going to put pucks in areas and be first most times," Thornton said of Paille's speed. "I know that from playing with him because there's a lot of times I iced it and he got there. Those guys are going right now and I think it's more the fact he doesn't want to come back and play with me so he wants to make sure that doesn't happen."
But all joking aside, Thornton is happy to see his good friend and teammate finally get some recognition. As Thornton pointed out, Paille's recent play isn't that different from the way the hard-working winger usually plays.
"He's been great for us all year, probably one of the more consistent guys," Thornton said. "I can't remember exactly how many goals he had, but he played a big role this year and all through playoffs he's been very consistent. So for him to start getting some recognition because he's gotten a couple goals is great. I think he probably could've deserved it before he was scoring goals. He plays big minutes on the penalty kill. He lays bodies. He does a lot of things right out there, so I'm happy for him."
Before being acquired by the Bruins from the Sabres for a 2010 third-round draft pick in October 2009, Paille had a 19-goal season in 2007-08. Since then his highest goal total was 12 in 2008-09 as he found his niche as a solid defensive forward.
But his teammates knew he still had some offensive punch in him. They're happy to see that return at the perfect time.
"Danny has scored 19 goals [in a season]. That's not an easy feat to do, especially the way he plays," Kelly pointed out after Game 3. "He plays an honest hockey game. I don't think he gets any power-play chances, so for him to score 19 goals, they're hard-working goals, and he's got great instincts."
Paille's other regular linemate, Campbell, expressed his appreciation for Paille's game as well. One of the main reasons the Bruins lost Game 1 of the finals 4-3 in triple overtime was that the Blackhawks' depth players stepped up. The next game, Boston's depth players -- led by Paille -- rose to the occasion.
"You see their third line contributing in Game 1, how important that was for them," Campbell said Tuesday. "For Danny to really step up and really be a leader in that sense, I'm extremely happy for him because he's one of the better guys I've played with, and nicer people. He works hard and he deserves to do well. I'm glad that he's helping the team."
Like Thornton, Campbell joked that maybe he and Thornton have been holding back Paille's offensive skills but knows the reason for Paille's recent success is because his all-around game embodies what it takes to win in the playoffs.
"I mean, I guess we found out the problem: me and Thorty have been holding him back the last two years," Campbell said with a laugh. "He's been big for our team. I've gotten the opportunity to watch him now that I'm not playing with him. He does a lot of things that really help out a team in the playoffs. Playoff hockey is really where he shines. I can relate to that. It's the simple things that might not draw a lot of attention during the regular season, but when it really matters in the playoffs, he's been there for us."