BOSTON -- Claude Julien's self-proclaimed "hunch from a coach" has turned into a major reason why the Boston Bruins are two wins shy of raising the Stanley Cup again.
Julien, the Bruins' coach, first showcased his retooled third line of Chris Kelly, Daniel Paille and Tyler Seguin early in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday at United Center because Boston was getting beaten soundly at that point and he felt the reconfigured line maybe could help the Bruins turn the momentum.
They did and Paille wound up scoring the overtime winner. They remained together for Game 3 on Monday night at TD Garden and, again, Paille scored the winning goal in 2-0 victory by the Bruins that gave them a 2-1 lead against the Chicago Blackhawks in the best-of-7 series.
Paille's winner came 2:13 into the second period of Game 3, off assists from Kelly and Seguin, who also had the primary assist on his OT winner Saturday.
"With a coach that has the confidence in you, you feel like you want to do something for it, you want to deserve it," Paille said. "We've been able to do that the last couple of games."
They've been able to do it with more than just needed production. That line has effectively taken a chunk out of what was the Chicago Blackhawks rather distinguishable advantage in speed.
The Blackhawks knew they would have to figure out a way to slow down the Bruins' top-two lines and, for the majority of the three games, they have; but they haven't yet discovered the antidote to Julien's 'Hunch Line,' which is skating fast, hunting down pucks, moving them quickly and playing responsibly through the neutral zone and in the defensive zone during the rare times they've been there.
"I think we're just putting pucks on net and reading plays," Paille said. "I think we're managing the puck better. On my goal [Monday night], you saw [Kelly] go in and then I went in and then I shot. We're not giving them enough time to think with the puck and then we're able to get it."
Julien can call it a hunch, but he didn't play it without at least knowing the ingredients he was putting together for this main dish of a third line.
He knows that Paille's speed and overall grit make him a dangerous player, even though he's been relegated to fourth-line duty for most of the season. In the past two games, Paille has also shown his quick-shot ability and he has essentially frozen Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford both times.
"I think the goalie hasn't had time to react to it," Paille said. "That helps."
Paille also has that fourth-line mentality to play some kill-the-clock minutes.
"[Paille] is great whatever line he plays on," Kelly said. "He plays the game the way the game should be played. He works hard, he finishes his checks, he capitalizes on his opportunities and skates extremely well."
Julien saw in overtime of Game 1 that Seguin found his legs and was skating. He wasn't earlier in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but Seguin is now and he has easily been one of the fastest players on the ice for either team since the first overtime in Game 1, with the minor blip of the first period in Game 2, when Chicago was skating circles around the Bruins.
"You really see [Seguin] moving his legs and that helps a lot," Paille said.
"With a coach that has the confidence in you, you feel like you want to do something for it, you want to deserve it. We've been able to do that the last couple of games." -- Bruins forward Daniel Paille on coach Claude Julien
Nobody ever has to remind Julien of how responsible Kelly is in the middle of the ice. He's the prototypical program guy who is willing to take on any role but always plays his game and never strays from what he does well.
"I think [Kelly] brings some skill, too, especially with the way we've been playing so far," Paille said. "With him, he's also a great defensive centerman for us and when you have me and [Seguin] going forward, up the ice, it's nice to have a centerman like that."
So, yeah, Julien can say he played a hunch, but this doesn't appear to be an accident or a surprise. These guys were put together because of they combine all the ingredients that have made the Blackhawks so successful -- until recently.
Putting Kelly between Seguin and Paille was Julien's way throwing the Blackhawks' game right back in their face, of showing them that his team can also play fast and with skill. When you pair it with the size, skill and physicality the Bruins have in their top-six, it allows them to neutralize the Blackhawks, who haven't been overly dangerous in transition, off the rush or in front of the net since Julien put his third line together.
"Obviously [Julien] makes big-time calls mid-game or before the games," Seguin said. "That's why we are here today."