Darren Helm won the 2008 Stanley Cup as a rookie. At 35, he’s two wins short of winning it again in what may be his 15th and final NHL season.
Helm, the Avalanche’s fourth-line center in year one, played a big part in Colorado’s 7-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals Saturday night. He hit 12 times in the top flight, won five of seven faceoffs and scored the fifth goal.
“He’s been phenomenal for us in all of the playoffs,” said Avalanche coach Jared Bednar after Game 2. “He plays to win. He plays as hard as he can play.”
Helm has a series high of 22 hits on the series.
“I’m trying to finish my checks, be physical and I think that’s an important part of the game right now,” Helm said after the Avs took a 2-0 lead. “So I’ll just try.”
After leveling the 10 goals he had in Game 1 with four minutes remaining in the second half, Helm became a goalscorer to further embarrass the two-time defending champions.
Helm was nearing the end of his shift but got a loose puck from linemate Logan O’Connor’s leg inside the Colorado blue line. When he counterattacked, he ran north. With his speed he could have won a semi breakaway with fresh legs. Many thought he would throw it away and switch lines.
But Helm kept running as defenders Anthony Cirelli and Victor Hedman closed in on him and he took a nasty top-shelf wrist gauntlet. Boom!
“It found its way home,” Helm said of his second goal of the postseason.
By the end of the second period, Helm had logged 8:02 – half as much as defender/teammate Cale Makar (16:33). But Helm had seven more hits than Makar and was the only point between them at the time. (Makar scored twice in the third period).
“Helmer is a beast in general,” Makar said after Game 2. “He’s so ambitious, works so hard on and off the ice. He’s been so good for us all season. He was incredible in the playoffs, especially at the faceoff point – and then just about everywhere.”
Helm, who scored in the final seconds of regulation on May 27 to end the St. Louis Blues in Game 6 of that first-round series, was a green rookie in 2008 while helping the Red Wings to the Stanley Cup. He played in just seven regular-season games for Detroit, mostly in the minor leagues, but featured in 18 NHL playoff games.
He knows how to win. And he knows the Avs had it all against the Lightning in Game 2.
“This is a team that can definitely (create) momentum and score some goals and put you on their heels. So we wanted to go ahead and play in their zone,” Helm said. “We did quite well tonight. We played a full 60 minute game. Getting pucks deep in the game, using our speed, putting a lot of pucks in the net. It seemed to work tonight.”
That might be a postseason win as an understatement.