BOSTON — It’s Daniel Paille’s Stanley Cup showcase and we are all witnesses.
You think I’m joking?
Sure, there are a bunch of Bruins playing like the NHL A-listers they are, including David Krejci (23 points in 20 playoff games), Patrice Bergeron (the second goal last night), Tuukka Rask (allowed just six goals in his last eight games), Milan Lucic (two goals, four assists in last six games) and Zdeno Chara (Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have combined for one assist).
But all of those guys have reached expectations, maybe on the cusp of surpassing them.
How else are we supposed to break down the most surprising development of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals. Last night’s 2-0 win gave the B’s a 2-1 series lead.
Instead of killing penalties, Paille is killing the Chicago Blackhawks.
On Saturday night, with this series looking a lot like a Blackhawks sweep in Chicago — they were outshooting the B’s 24-7 with five minutes remaining in the second period — the game turned on an innocent battle for a loose puck behind the Blackhawks net.
Paille got the puck and in a space smaller than a phone booth he made a nifty move to avoid a defender (a “toe” drag) and attempted to slam the puck past goalie Corey Crawford.
Chris Kelly charged the net and hit the rebound over Crawford’s shoulder.
Since that play, Paille’s battle behind the net, the Bruins have owned this series.
And it was Paille who saved several million hockey fans from another epic double-OT game with a wrister from 30 feet out, clanging off the right post, with Crawford barely touching the puck.
Fast forward to last night.
While the Bruins controlled the game, it was scoreless until another Paille fight for a loose puck and wrister, this time on the inside post for a 1-0 lead 2:13 into the second period.
“That was huge,” said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville. “That gave them a lot of momentum.”
And Paille was there for another momentum boost near the end of the period when he was tripped getting another loose puck. Fifteen seconds later, Bergeron slammed in a power play goal, from Jaromir Jagr, to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead. It felt like 4-0 with the B’s defense in control.
Two huge, hustle plays of the period and another Stanley Cup victory had Paille’s name on it.
We don’t know a lot about Paille because he has been a rock solid fourth-liner/penalty killer for most of his four years here.
He is the only player ever dealt between the Bruins and Sabres due to, obviously, the rivalry.
He was a first round draft pick by the Sabres in 2002 but spent way too much time in Lindy Ruff’s doghouse. The Sabres had roster issues as the 2009-10 season was to begin and the Bruins gave up a third round pick and a conditional pick.
He has been fighting for playing time on the fourth line since arriving. At times, he’s been called one of the top penalty killers in the game.
Among Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli’s incredible signings, Paille was inked to a three-year, $3.9 million deal last fall. Talk about a steal.
Then consider that with more than a dozen million people watching the last two games, Paille has potentially changed the course of the series.
Lest we forget, the Blackhawks are now 0 for 10 on the power play in this series, and Paille has played at least one full shift on each of those penalty-killing units.
And while many are talking about the resurgence of the new third line, Kelly and Tyler Seguin have been bit players.
Of course, Paille won’t hear any of that.
“I think I’m just happy that we got the win,” he said after being named the game’s No. 1 star. “Fortunately, it was the game winner and I’ll be excited about it. More excited that we won.”
You can email Bill Burt at email@example.com.