People go on and on about Detroit’s wealth of experience and what an edge it gives the Red Wings over the much greener Pittsburgh Penguins.
And they are right.
But sitting in the corner of the Wings dressing room is a kid, Darren Helm, who is going through the process for the first time. And you can bet your bottom dollar he’s feeling butterflies in his belly.
“My first couple of shifts in Game 1 I was really quite nervous,” said the 21-year-old center, who played most of his first pro season with Grand Rapids of the American League. “I was pretty shaky those first few shifts and had trouble controlling the puck. But after a while I settled down and felt much better. I think I’ll be a lot more comfortable tonight in Game 2.”
While the Red Wings have their share of grizzled veterans, players who wear the lines of battles fought in the scars on their faces, Helm is a baby-faced rookie who doesn’t look a whole lot older than the six prospects the NHL flew into Detroit who were wandering around the Wings room after the morning skate.
But don’t let his looks fool you. A solid two-way player with Medicine Hat of the Western League for three years, Helm had 16 goals and 31 points in 67 games with Grand Rapids before being recalled by the Red Wings. Helm actually got off to a rough start to his pro career, suffering a sternoclavicular sprain in training camp that caused him to miss the entire NHL pre-season.
“I would have liked to get into a couple of exhibition games, but I always knew I’d be spending some time in GR (Grand Rapids) at some point,” Helm said. “Playing in the American League was a very good experience. The biggest thing, aside from the obvious increase in speed, was the way players are so disciplined in terms of playing their positions. It was a good experience that prepared me for the NHL.”
Red Wings veteran Kris Draper said Helm is a welcome addition to the team.
“He’s very composed and his speed is unbelievable,” Draper said. “He can absolutely fly and the other big thing is, he steps into the faceoff circle against veterans truly believing he can win the draw. That is huge for our team.”
Helm was pointless in seven regular season games with Detroit, but has a goal and two points in 13 playoff games.
• Kris Draper has plenty of reasons to smile, aside from the fact he’s three wins away from his fourth Stanley Cup. His wife Julie gave birth to a baby girl, Kamryn, May 22 and brought the baby home the morning of Game 1.
“Saturday was my birthday – the best birthday I’ve ever had,” Draper said. “My wife is handling things beautifully. You have to remember, she’s a seasoned vet at all of this, too. The only bad thing is she’s stuck at home. She loves being at the rink for the games.”
• The Penguins looked a little tight and nervous at the start of their morning skate, but Maxime Talbot loosened things up by poking at his teammates and whooping it up a bit. His actions seemed to take the edge out of the air.
“I want to be one of the leaders on this hockey team,” Talbot said. “And if I can make an impact by having fun out on the ice, then that is what I’m going to do. We’re in the Stanley Cup final; the guys have to have fun with this thing.”
• Detroit coach Mike Babcock met with NHL executives to discuss the goal in Game 1 that was disallowed because Tomas Holmstrom was ruled to have interfered with Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. He said he has put the call, which he loudly disagreed with at the time, behind him.
He also told the media Johan Franzen would not play tonight. Franzen has 12 goals in 11 games, but has been out with concussion-like symptoms.
• Asked what adjustments the Penguins could make heading into Game 2, Sportsnet analyst Nick Kypreos responded: “Dress Mario.”
THN senior writer Mike Brophy is on the road following the Stanley Cup final and will be filing daily reports until a champion is crowned. To read his other entries, click HERE.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.