BOSTON -- Earlier this season, rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton was voted by fans as the winner of the Bruins' Seventh Player award, given to the player who most exceeds expectations and goes above and beyond the call of duty. Some in local hockey circles believed do-it-all forward Daniel Paille of the much-adored Merlot Line would have been a better choice.
There's good reason why.
For what he brings to the rink every night, Paille is similar to his good friend Patrice Bergeron. While Paille isn't likely to win any Selke Trophies anytime soon, he's a dependable defensive forward, sharing Bergeron's keen eye for detail in his own zone. And every so often -- as exhibited by his overtime wrister in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals -- Paille shows flashes of pure offensive skill.
"Our top players are going to do what they can every night," Paille said during Sunday's meeting with reporters at TD Garden. "I think, in that past, it's shown that the biggest difference is the bottom six. I think it's going to be huge for both teams. We want to try to help out as much as we can."
Paille has embraced many roles since landing with the Bruins in Oct. 2010, after being acquired from the Buffalo Sabres for a third-round draft choice. A former first-round draft pick himself (No. 20 overall by the Sabres in 2002), Paille has played as a top-six forward at times when injuries have dictated. But he's best known as one-third of the Bruins' fourth line, alongside Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton, and as a key penalty killer.
Paille's Game 2 performance showed, like Bergeron, he can more than hold his own in the offensive zone. His work coming off the end wall and side-stepping Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy while setting up Chris Kelly's game-tying goal wasn't a move characteristic of your run-of-the-mill fourth-liner. Paille's touch on the game winner, a wrist shot from the slot that beat Corey Crawford glove side, was more marksman than plugger.
That's all part of the 29-year-old's game, a game that is dictated by the situation.
"When line changes are made, for us as players, you try not to do too much," Paille said of the Bruins' new-look third line that saw him play alongside Kelly and Tyler Seguin for most of Game 2.
"You want to try to stay with what you're capable of doing. I think we were able to accomplish that last night."
Paille's touch, along with Kelly's first point of the postseason, on the hodgepodge third line helped fill a gaping void in the Bruins' quest for a second Cup in three seasons -- at least for a game.
But it remains a work in progress. With Campbell recovering from season-ending surgery on a broken leg, Paille finds himself in the ever-evolving shuffling of lines among the bottom six forwards.
"We need four lines, there's no doubt there," Bruins coach Claude Julien said Sunday. "Again, we managed to get a line that produced for us last night. Now we'll work on the next one. We'll get the right combinations here."
Perhaps by extension, Paille's Game 2 performance was made possible by a resurgent Seguin, who earned an assist on the game winner and turned in perhaps his best three-zone effort of the postseason. Seguin has scored just one goal this postseason, so anything to get the sniper untracked would be welcome.
The new grouping also might put Seguin at ease, skating the wing with two players committed to taking care of the defensive priorities.
"[Paille] can definitely fly and [Kelly] has speed, but he's also very responsible in his own zone, in all three zones, and he takes a lot of pride in that," Seguin said. "So I think the switch to that line midway through the game definitely was working out.
"But it could switch back and forth throughout the games, so who knows."
Whether the third-line synergy spills over into Monday's Game 3 remains to be seen. For the time being, it was key in evening the series.
"It's definitely something that when you play with someone for so many years, it takes time to adjust," Paille said. "Having [Campbell] out, it has been slightly different.
"Hopefully, we can find our game now."