ST. LOUIS — Don’t you think the Stanley Cup is a bucket full of nuts? It took a career Detroit Red Wing to finally end the Avalanche’s second-round playoff curse.
“You know, when I signed (here), there were some friends I made who lived in Detroit who kind of gave me some (crud),” Helm cracked, the Avs fourth-line center after his game. -the game-winning goal against St. Louis here Friday night sent Colorado to its first Stanley Cup conference final since 2002. “(But) they’re happy to see me here, win, see the team (succeed). “
With 5.6 seconds left in a 2-2 game, Helm, who had signed with the Avs after 14 seasons with the (boo) Wings (hiss), raised his stick with both hands from the left face-off circle .
The lighted lamp. Enterprise Center collapsed.
In a mighty move, the demons and ghosts that have haunted Front Range hockey fans for two decades have run screaming from Gateway City and into the cold ether of night.
“(It was like) almost a relief,” Avs defenseman Josh Manson, another unsung hero and franchise newbie, said with a smile. “You’re so excited, but it’s like, ‘Thank God it’s over. We did it.'”
Ding Dong the witch is dead. Voodoo. The hexagon. All.
“The first thing I did was check the clock,” recalls goaltender Darcy Kuemper. “And see how much time was left. They added a second there.
Of course they did. That’s the problem with zombies stalking a franchise for so long. They rarely go down without a fight.
Or without a few sacrifices along the way. The biggest of Game 6 could have come on a Blues power play at 17:23 of the second period.
Kuemper appeared to lose footing to the left of his crease as the St. Louis offense approached, leaving the big goalie helpless on his back two good feet from a wide-open goal. Enter Manson, who threw his 6-foot-3 frame into the net in place of Kuemper to fight Jordan Kyrou’s wrist.
Manson’s chest served as the only barrier between the Avs and a 3-1 deficit to close out the second period. Colorado killed the penalty.
These zombies don’t fall without a team effort. Such as JT Compher cleaning up rubbish from the Blues six minutes into the second period, pushing in a deflection into the crease that Villo Husso had failed to catch cleanly to tie the game at 1-1.
The No. 37 came to the rescue again midway through the third with a fumbled wrist from the right face-off circle that tied it again, this time at 2-2, at the end of a power play.
What drove Avs fans crazy on Friday wasn’t the team’s core. It was the occasional incline.
It was turnovers in the offensive zone. It was Jack Johnson who mishandled the puck at his blue line midway through the second period, only for the Blues to pounce, then accelerate with him the other way on a break that ended in a goal from Kyrou and a 2-1 cushion from the Blues.
It was about hanging on anyway.
“Our guys were doing the right things,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said, “and saying the right things off the bench.”
The Stanley Cup Playoffs, at its core, is basically an HBO Max miniseries — and not the kind you’d let your kids watch. This gives us subplots. Violence. Language. Plot. Stars. Bad guys. Bad breaks. Orientation errors. Mid-season twists.
The main characters, the characters you’ve come to love right out of the drop, suddenly fall off along the way. Hope at the start line becomes a savage war of attrition, the most grueling marathon in team sports. There are no prisoners. Only scars. For life.
“You have to move on,” Avs veteran Andrew Cogliano said after morning practice Friday. “I think that’s the (key). It’s cliché, but, you know, feeling sorry for yourself in the playoffs is death.
And, just like that, Colorado’s Stanley Cup dreams are given new life.
“You could tell the belief was there,” Bednar said.
Beliefs and bodies, everywhere. Closed off. Compher. Manson.
What did you tell him after that rescue chest anyway, Darce?
“Thank you,” said the keeper with a smile.
“The best,” said captain Gabe Landeskog, “is up front.”
And the beast is dead.
“We know what we have in the locker room,” Helm said. “We know if we stick to the game plan, stick with him, good things are going to happen.”
On this day 13 years ago, Helm scored the game-winner to send the Evil Empire past Chicago in overtime and send the Wings to the Stanley Cup Finals. Funny game, that.
“And it’s my mom’s birthday (Saturday), so there you go,” the Avs’ fourth-line center said. “Happy Birthday Mom.”
Happy birthday, Korien.
Hallelujah, Darren Helm.