The T-shirt in support of one of Boston's great role players is as clever as it is profane.
"Yippee Paille … !"
There's another word following Paille, of course, but this is a family newspaper and you'll either need to locate one of those T-shirts being worn around TD Garden or find an old clip of Bruce Willis in his "Die Hard" movies to fill in the blanks. It is a word that Joel Quenneville and many of his Chicago Blackhawks undoubtedly feel like screaming Tuesday.
On one end, the Blackhawks can't solve Tuukka Rask.
Perhaps even more vexing they are being beat by Daniel Paille at the other end.
We don't have our handy-dandy Helsinki-to-North End dictionary available on deadline, but here's one bet that Tuukka Rask means, "Yippee Paille …!" in Finnish.
The Bruins, who grabbed a 2-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Finals Monday night with a 2-0 victory, are on an inexorable roll now. Yes, the Blackhawks are as deep as the Bruins. Yes, the Blackhawks are as talented as the Bruins. With a deep, mobile aggressive defense, when their vertical passing game is clicking, they can compete at a pace that few in the NHL can match.
Yet the Bruins, hockey's great counter punchers, seem to have answers for everybody at most every time this spring. They hit. They hit hard. Except for the stray dumb penalty, like Kaspars Daugavins' running first-period elbow, they remained disciplined and defensive. The Chicago power play is helpless. And with Rask stopping everything in sight, it soon may be hopeless for the Blackhawks.
Make no mistake. If nothing changes in the coming days, the Bruins will have their second Stanley Cup in three years and Rask will be the second Bruins goalie in those three years to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs. If nothing changes, the remarkable first period of Game 2 when the Blackhawks poured 19 shots on Rask and Rask stopped 18 of them will be remembered as the turning point. Chicago should have been up 3-0. Instead it was 1-0 and would end with Yippee Paille's overtime goal and a 2-1 Bruins victory.
It's crazy. When Tim Thomas led the Bruins to the Stanley Cup in 2011, we embraced it as one of those once-in-a-lifetime performances. Thomas, unorthodox in net and downright weird out of it, strung together a spring filled with dives, back flips and pirouettes to end a 39-year championship drought.
Rask may well be playing better than Thomas did. OK, it's not as breathtaking. It's not as wild. Sometimes it seemed as if Thomas played blindfolded. He was the Pinball Wizard. With his terrific lateral motion, with his economy of reflexes, Rask is more nuanced and structured. He's like a goalie on those old table hockey games. But little is going past the Finn and on this night nothing did. In fact, the Blackhawks needed a double-deflection, triple-overtime score to beat Rask in Game 1. That one didn't need a goal judge. It needed the Warren Commission to figure it out.
"I think it's just as good. No doubt," Bruins coach Claude Julien said before the game of Rask's goalkeeping. "Tim has been a great goaltender for us. When you lose a guy like that, there's always that fear that you're not going to be able to replace him. Tuukka's done an outstanding job. To me, he's been as much of a contributor to our team as Tim was two years ago."
Afterward Julien said, "He's so focused. I've never seen a guy so calm and confident. It's the quietest I've seen him."
That Blackhawks' locker room was pretty darned quiet after the game, too.
Thomas did do something Rask hasn't. He won 16 times in 2011. And there is no denying in his 16-9 record with 1.98 goals-against average, .940 save percentage and four shutouts, there was greatness. Yet after he stopped all 28 shots in Game 3, Rask is 14-5, 1.64 GAA, .946 save percentage and three shutouts. He hasn't lost a game in regulation since Game 6 of the opening round against Toronto.
He slips on a banana peel on a fluky goal in the only loss in the Rangers series. He laughed it off. He was in goal when the Bruins blew a 3-0 series lead against the Flyers in 2010. He shrugged it off. He didn't let it define his career.
"I always feel like I'm in a zone," Rask said. "Tonight, they had shots, but most of them came from the outside and there weren't many rebound opportunities."
Yet it is in Paille's emergence in the Finals that we find some of the lunch-pail grit that Bruins fans find so romantic. Chances come in all shapes, sizes and circumstances. And when Chicago's Marian Hossa was scratched at the last minute, Ben Smith of Avon and Boston College had the chance of a lifetime. The Bruins would make sure no Blackhawks would enjoy the night. And again, it was the Chris Kelly line with Paille and Tyler Seguin that would create havoc.
Folks sometimes forget Paille was once a first-round pick by the Sabres. Yes, he is a splendid penalty-killer. Yes, he is really smart at reading things defensively. He is fast. He also has some offensive talent. And after Gregory Campbell suffered a broken leg in the Penguins series, Julien decided to put Paille with Kelly. And while it put a temporary end to the Merlot Line with Campbell and Scott Thorton, it helped breathe life into the third line.
"With [Campbell] not being able to be around us on the road, we definitely are going to enjoy his presence and just his comments on certain parts of the game and I think we're all happy to see him again," Paille said on Monday before the game."It's something that no player wants to be a part of when you're so close and you get injured but we all understand that there's a territory that comes with it sometimes and he knows if he could skate he would be there."
In Game 2, Patrice Bergeron showed some of his talent as he came off the boards and tricky-dribbled around Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy to set up Kelly's game-tying goal. After a mistake by Brandon Bollig, Paille stuck a beautiful shot past Corey Crawford on the short side to win it in overtime.
On this night, after Kelly stole the puck from Dave Bolland — who was far too weak on the puck — Paille snapped a shot past Crawford in the second period. He drew a penalty that led to a power play goal by Bergeron.
"The top lines often cancel each other out," Julien said. "It's up to other guys in the playoffs."
And with a "Yippee Paille …!" Bruins fans can appreciate that sentiment.