For Daniel Paille, that's all it took to feel good again.
After sitting out two straight games as a healthy scratch, and going through a stretch of 36 games without a goal, the 10-year veteran pounced on a rebound just 1:05 into his first game back, and powered it into the twine.
His last goal had come back on Nov. 21 in Columbus. The next one, on Feb. 24, snapped a 16-game pointless streak. His 13:27 in ice time was his 10th highest total all season.
The Bruins eventually fell 2-1 to Vancouver, and given the result, scoring was no consolation for Paille. But after netting his first goal in more than three months, he finally had the feeling back of finding the back of the net.
"Sometimes when you’re in the stretch that I was in, it’s good to take a step back before you take two steps forward," said Paille. "I think I was just in a bad place for a long time, couldn’t figure out how to get out of it, and after watching the last couple of games just tried to calm down a little bit and at the same time get some anger in there for when I get back in there."
Through 58 games this season, Paille now has two goals and seven assists.
"You know, I thought talking with Claude, he’s been really clear with me what he wants or what he needs from me," said Paille. "So there’s no miscommunication there, I just needed to have a better effort. That was my goal and I think I did a good job refocusing, but it’s only one game."
In the wake of injuries, with David Krejci missing four to six weeks due to a partial tear in the MCL of his left knee, and Gregory Campbell out for at least a week with an upper-body injury, Paille skated on a line with Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson for the night.
The trio accounted for 13 of the team's 41 shots on goal, with Paille firing four on target. After his goal, he nearly scored again, banging home a puck from just outside the crease. But Soderberg was in Canucks goalie Eddie Lack's kitchen after being knocked down, and Lack's helmet was coming off. It was ruled "no goal."
"Carl and Loui, they’re definitely offensively skilled and I’m definitely – for not practicing too often with them, I definitely enjoyed the opportunity," said Paille. "We had a lot of scoring chances, and hopefully if I get the opportunity to play next game [in New Jersey], and we have those opportunities again, hopefully we can capitalize more on them."
On a night when the Bruins collectively couldn't find their finish, Paille somehow did.
"That’s what you hope for, you know, and he had another good chance there later on," Head Coach Claude Julien said, of Paille coming back into the lineup after nights in the press box in St. Louis and Chicago. "We need him to step up with the injuries. So maybe sitting out a couple games and being able to watch from up top just kind of gave him a different perspective, and he seemed to be a better player."
Learning from the Past
This wasn't the first time that Paille had been a healthy scratch in the Spoked-B. But it did mark his first time being scratched since the 2011-12 season, when he didn't dress for four games due to coach's decision.
During the 2010-11 season, Paille was a healthy scratch for a lengthier time, on and off for 35 games, before latching on with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton to form a formidable fourth line heading into the postseason and the 2011 Cup run.
Throughout that season, he had constant talks with Julien and the coaching staff. "All year, they were just telling me to be patient, stay strong, and I knew eventually my game was going to show in their eyes," Paille said back in 2011, right before the Cup Final. "To be in this position now, it makes everything worth it."
Being a healthy scratch for two games in February amidst an up and down 2014-15 season does not present the same exact situation, but it's still another learning experience for the forward, who will take from it what he can.
"I think it’s just, when things don’t go right, it’s easy to get negative and take a lot in and put a lot of pressure on yourself," said Paille. "Maybe in the end, I needed that time to reflect on what I needed to accomplish in the group and I felt that it helped me with the way that Claude approached me when he wasn’t playing me. I think for me, it just kind of cleared my mind a little bit to what I need to do for this team."
"He can see that I was fighting the puck, and just fighting in general and hesitating to get into plays," he said. "So he just told me to take a breath and be ready when called upon, and for me, I didn't know how long or how short it would be, but I was ready - after he told me, I practiced that next morning [in St. Louis] and just tried to get a focus on - not just the season, but those last couple of weeks there and really evaluate the game and the level I know I'm capable of playing."
"And I haven't been able to do it so far, until now - hopefully I can keep that up."
Not Catching a Break
In early January, when Eriksson missed a game due to injury (Jan. 8 against New Jersey), Paille was called upon to take on a larger role. The lines had been switched around, and Paille skated on the right wing with Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron. That trio, for the most, stuck for the next four games, even when Eriksson returned. Paille created chances by moving his feet and using his speed.
Defensively, Paille has always been reliable. When playing with Bergeron, he was often matched up against the opponent's top line.
His offensive year has been the most perplexing for Julien, and not because the forward has been short of chances. Even when playing with Lucic and Bergeron, the opportunities were there, but the finish was not. Paille again filled in on Bergeron's line when Brad Marchand was serving a two-game suspension on Jan. 17 and 20.
Paille returned to his usual fourth line role for the end of January and February, and the trouble with finishing continued.
Perhaps no chance best characterized the way he was fighting it offensively, than when he had a potential breakaway against Dallas on Feb. 10, but lost an edge.
"I guess it goes with the whole territory that he’s in right now," Julien had said that night, after the B's dropped a 5-3 loss to the Stars amidst a tough February. "He’s just not getting any bounces or he’s just not getting those breaks that he’s looking for right now to make something good happen."
"I guess every player at some point in their career will have a tough year. We’ve all seen that. Right now for him, he could easily get close to those numbers if he got scoring," said Julien. "You look at the chances he’s getting, starts putting those in, he could climb up pretty quickly. To me, he’s got to stick with it."
"You’ve heard me say that often, when the chances are there, it’s a good sign. When they’re not there you got a long way to go. He’s go some opportunities now he’s just got to make sure he works on burying them."
During the Bruins' six-game losing streak, the offensive struggles were team-wide, but Paille's own stretch also continued.
So, Julien and the Bruins' staff decided to make a switch, inserting Jordan Caron back into the lineup after being a healthy scratch for 10 games and having Brian Ferlin suit up in his first NHL game. They joined Gregory Campbell on the fourth line in St. Louis on Feb. 20. Paille and Cunningham were scratched.
"That’s the intention behind it — he’s had a tough year, and I think his confidence is at its lowest right now," Julien said in St. Louis, of Paille. "And sometimes watching a game from above and seeing things and maybe giving him that hunger to want to get back in the lineup, and to want to be down here versus there — it’s all for good reasons."
"I think he’s been a great solider for us, have a lot of respect for him, and all we’re trying to do right now is we’ve run out of ideas, I guess, on how to get him going, and right now, this is another option that we chose to do in order to help him find his game."
Now that Paille is back in the lineup, he will be called upon to fill a larger role. With Krejci sidelined and Campbell out for a week, the Bruins are counting on Paille for more than just his defensive reliability.
If he stays skating with Soderberg and Eriksson, the chances will come.
Even if Chris Kelly goes back to skating with his usual Swedish linemates when Campbell returns from injury, instead of serving as fourth line center, Paille's confidence will hopefully have taken a jump.
And hopefully a team that has been struggling to find its finish consistently in 2014-15, will take that jump with him for the final 22 games.
"It’s definitely been the most up and down season as a group. But, even the St. Louis game when I was watching, I didn’t see anybody kind of get distraught or depressed or anything like that, and same with [the game against Vancouver]," said Paille.
"I thought everyone seemed a bit calm, but at the same time, willing to put the effort in. It’s definitely a tough stretch when we’re starting to play well and get that loss, but hopefully this can be a turnaround for the rest of the season."
Paille may have been referencing the team as a whole, but personally, he's putting pressure on himself to keep up the level of performance he showed against the Canucks.
"With David out right now, having the opportunity to play with Carl and Loui, I know that [Claude] calls upon myself to do something about it," he said.
"I think [there's been a stretch] too long this season, where I underachieved, but I've got a good 20-game stretch here to really show the emotion and the passion that this team deserves to have, and certainly the city."