Darren Helm won the Stanley Cup as a rookie in 2008. At age 35, he’s two wins shy of hoisting it again in what might be his 15th and final NHL season.
Helm, the Avalanche’s first-year fourth-line center, played a big role in Colorado’s 7-0 rout of the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night. He delivered a game-high 12 hits, won five-of-seven faceoffs and scored the fifth goal.
“He’s been phenomenal all playoffs for us,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said after Game 2. “He’s playing to win. He’s playing as hard as he can possibly play.”
Helm has a series-high 22 hits in the series.
“I try 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 series lead. “So just trying to do that.”
Having matched the 10 hits he had in Game 1 with four minutes remaining in the second period, Helm became a scorer to further embarrass the two-time defending champions.
Helm was nearing the end of his shift but gained a loose puck off linemate Logan O’Connor’s leg inside the Colorado blue line. He skated north on the counter-attack. With his speed, he could have gained a semi-breakaway with fresh legs. Many thought he was going to dump it and change lines.
But Helm kept skating as defenders Anthony Cirelli and Victor Hedman closed in him and he got off a wicked wrister top-shelf glove side. Boom!
“It found its way home,” Helm said of his second goal of this postseason.
By the end of the second period, Helm had logged 8:02 — half as much as defenseman/teammate Cale Makar (16:33). But Helm had seven more hits than Makar and the only point between them at that time. (Makar scored twice in the third period).
“Helmer’s a beast just in general,” Makar said after Game 2. “He’s so driven, works so hard on and off the ice. He’s been so good for us all season. He’s been incredible in the playoffs, especially in the faceoff dot — and then just everywhere.”
Helm, who scored in the final seconds of regulation on May 27 to close out the St. Louis Blues in Game 6 of that first-round series, was a green rookie in 2008 when he helped the Red Wings with the Stanley Cup. He played in just seven regular-season games for Detroit as a mostly minor-league call-up but saw action in 18 NHL playoff games.
He knows how to win. And he knows the Avs had everything going against the Lightning in Game 2.
“That’s a team that can definitely (create) momentum and score some goals and put you on your heels. So we wanted to keep moving forward and playing in their zone,” Helm said. “We were able to do a pretty good job of that tonight. We played a full 60-minute game. Putting pucks in deep, using our speed, putting a lot of pucks on net. It seemed to work out tonight.”
That might win as the understatement of the postseason.