Paille played in Southie to prep for 2013 season

Paille played in Southie to prep for 2013 season
June 17, 2013, 10:30 am
Share This Post

BOSTON -- When Daniel Paille scored the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 2 against the Blackhawks to tie the Stanley Cup Finals at one game apiece, it was "Bruins hockey" at its finest.

With a wrist shot that rang off the post and into the back of the net, Paille, who has made his living on Boston's fourth line, picked up his teammates and kept them from falling behind in the series, 2-0.

After the win, Chris Kelly got the "player of the game" Army Ranger jacket -- a feel-good gesture for the guy who scored his team's first goal in Game 2 after entering the game without a single point and a team-worst minus-9 in the playoffs.

But Paille created the chance that led to Kelly's goal, winning a race to the puck behind the Chicago net and attempting a quick wraparound that Kelly eventually knocked in. Add that to his game-winner, and it was Paille -- the relentless grinder, one of the fastest players on the Bruins but not one of its stars -- who was the hero.

How fitting is it then that the path that led to such a big night for one of the B's blue-collar players began in a men's league in South Boston?

During the lockout, some NHL players went overseas. Some didn't do anything at all. Paille -- along with former Bruin Mike Mottau, Rangers center Brian Boyle, and Oilers defenseman Ryan Whitney -- joined a Saturday pick-up league in Southie. Or, so he thought.

As the Bruins' winger found out, it was more than just a Saturday pick-up league. And he found out in his very first game.

"The first game he played, we lost, and he didn't realize how competitive the league was, and that guys have all played at a high level," said one of Paille's teammates, former Boston University and minor league forward Brian Collins.

"He wasn't really going all-out or anything," said an opposing defenseman Charlie Levin. "He was just looking to get a good skate in. Then you'd see him accelerate up the wing, and it was pretty clear why he's been in the [NHL] so long."

Earlier this season, Paille admitted that he didn't have a very good showing in his first appearance as part of the Southie Men's League, which consists of five teams filled with former college and pro players.

In fact, Collins, the team's captain, had Paille miss a shift five minutes into the game in order to put him on a different line.

After that game, Paille was told about how serious the league was, and that there was a little more at stake than he thought. This was more than just a chance to get in shape for a possible NHL season.

Paille returned for a second game with the same team, and of course, he responded. 

"The next week he played and wanted to be on our team again," said Collins. "He wanted to show us that he was a good player. He had a hat trick."

Even then, at Murphy Memorial Rink, he wanted to prove he was a reliable teammate. There was no Stanley Cup at stake, and he wasn't being paid, but he didn't want to let down Team Yellow.

Fast-forward to the Stanley Cup Final, and Paille is now taking it upon himself to make up for what's been a lackluster playoff performance from the Bruins' bottom-six forwards. Boston needed secondary scoring, and he gave it to them in Game 2.

"After a win I’m always excited, so it was just a bonus that I happened to score," said Paille on Sunday. "Of course, I was just trying to replay it over and over and watch it a little bit, and I just got excited. Now, I got to reflect on it and now I’m ready to move on and play a better game for the next game.

"I don't necessarily consider myself a scorer," he added. "I'm just trying to do the best I can and get the scoring opportunities that I usually create. And like [in Game 2], it's nice that they can go in."

He's not a top-six forward, but Paille is everything the Bruins stand for: hard-working, blue collar, committed to defense. He's smart, speedy, and tough to play against. His performance in Game 2 defined "Bruins hockey," and the guys from the Southie men's league weren't at all surprised to see it.