He was 21 when the Detroit Red Wings defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals, played at Mellon Arena. He had only 25 games behind the tie in the NHL.
He is now 35 years old. The Mellon Arena was destroyed. His jersey is no longer that of the Red Wings, but rather that of the Colorado Avalanche, who face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2022 Stanley Cup Final. Nearly 900 games later, Helm is trying to recreate the magic moment .
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They are just two wins away from doing so, as the Avalanche lead the series 2-0 following their spectacular 7-0 victory on Saturday, in which Helm scored a goal and finished with 12 hits, a high among both teams. Game 3 is in Tampa Bay on Monday (8 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, CBC, SN, TVAS).
If he manages to win the Cup, Helm will become the fourth player in NHL history to go at least 14 years between two Stanley Cup titles. Chris Chelios holds the record with 16 years (1986 with the Montreal Canadiens to 2002 with the Red Wings), Mark Recchi had to wait 15 years (1991 with the Penguins to 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes), while Bill Guerin has patient for 14 years (1995 with the New Jersey Devils to 2009 with the Penguins).
“That puts me in a select group! “said Helm, who has played 805 season games in the NHL and 80 in the playoffs since 2008. “That’s pretty cool! »
In 2007-08, Helm spent most of his first professional season in the American Hockey League (67 games), and his experience with the Red Wings was limited to five games. He therefore did not expect to play in the playoffs.
But to his surprise, he was called in as a backup in Game 5 of Round 1 against the Nashville Predators, as the series that was tied 2-2 moved to Joe Louis Arena, another arena that has since passed. under the peak of the wreckers.
“I was shocked to see that I was going to play in the NHL playoffs,” he recalled.
Helm capitalized on the opportunity and never left the Red Wings roster for the next 18 games, earning the first two goals and four points of his career. in the NHL. He hasn’t forgotten the last seconds of Game 6 in Pittsburgh, when he took to the ice and lifted the Cup.
“I remember it was much heavier than I expected. It was an incredible feeling. »
Video: TBL@COL, #2: Helm adds lead in 2nd period
Helm had every right to expect to relive that moment. After all, the Red Wings had made the playoffs every season since 1990-91, and they had also won the Cup in 1997, 1998 and 2002. They came close to doing so the following year, but this time, it was the Penguins who lifted the Cup against Detroit.
But for the next seven seasons, the Red Wings lost in the first or second round, then simply missed the playoffs for the next five seasons.
“I was probably a little naïve to think like that, because I was playing for two big teams,” Helm said. We won in my first year and came close in the second. We haven’t lost a ton of guys, so I thought I had a chance almost every year.
“As with most players in this League, you quickly realize that it won’t be that easy. »
Helm became an unrestricted free agent after the 2020-21 season, and signed a one-year contract with the Avalanche on July 29. It wasn’t easy leaving the only team he had known in the NHL, but also leaving behind the town where he will likely live after his career, the town where his three daughters – ages 10, 7 and five years – grew up. But he knew he couldn’t wait any longer if he hoped to regain the Cup.
“I didn’t really want to end my career on this note,” he explained. I wanted to get another chance to win, and Detroit is rebuilding, so I had to go somewhere else. I felt like Colorado was a team capable of winning the Cup. I saw very beautiful things. It’s always been a tough team to play against, and I wanted to join it and create that opportunity. This is what is happening right now. »
Helm has 15 points in 68 games this season, and has two goals and two assists in the playoffs. His speed and tenacity came in handy on the Avalanche’s last two lines and on the penalty kill.
His first goal of the playoffs was a big one, coming with 5.6 seconds left in Game 6 of the second-round series against the St. Louis Blues, giving the Avalanche a reach the association final for the first time since 2001.
It was his first playoff goal since 2016, and the second time he’s made a difference in a series since doing the same in a 2-1 overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks in of Game 5 of the Western Final in 2009.
Helm thus became the second player in NHL history to have to wait at least 13 years before scoring two streak-ending goals. Adam Oates had done the same after 16 years of waiting, in 2003 with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
“It shows how difficult it is to find yourself in such a situation,” Helm said. It doesn’t happen every year. It could only happen once to… 14 years! “, he launched, laughing. “So I’m very grateful to be part of this team. »