Detroit Red Wings win Stanley Cup
The 1997 Stanley Cup Final NHL championship series was contested by the Detroit Red Wings and the Philadelphia Flyers.
Detroit was in the Final for the second time in three years (the other coming in 1995, when they lost to the New Jersey Devils) while the Flyers were making their first appearance since the 1987 Final. Detroit won the series in four games to win the Stanley Cup for the eighth time in franchise history and the first time since 1955. Before 2009, Detroit was the last team to win the Cup without having home ice advantage in the Finals. Detroit is also the most recent team to win the Cup with fewer than 100 points earned during the regular season.
The Flyers arrived into the Final having beaten their perennial rivals, the New York Rangers in a memorable five-game Eastern Conference Final series. Eric Lindros and Wayne Gretzky each recorded a hat trick in the set, but the size, strength and discipline of Philadelphia trumped the veteran savvy of the Blueshirts. Philadelphia rose to the top on the back of a 17-game unbeaten streak in December and January, and despite losing the Atlantic Division title to New Jersey, had an easy time with Pittsburgh and Buffalo in the first two rounds.
Detroit was the dark-horse in the Western Conference, the third-seed behind Dallas and Colorado. The Red Wings made their second trip to the Stanley Cup Final in three years by besting the Avalanche in an often brutal six-game Western Conference final. Despite winning 62 games the year before, Detroit won only 38 in 1996–97 but got tougher with the addition of Brendan Shanahan and the departure of several players whom head coach Scotty Bowman blamed for their loss to Colorado a year prior. The Wings dispatched a fractured St. Louis Blues team and a surprising Mighty Ducks of Anaheim to reach the conference finals for the third straight season.
The teams had never faced each other in the playoffs prior to the season; even in the early days of expansion beyond the Original Six, the clubs never made the postseason when the NHL employed its cross-over format between East and West divisions. Nor had they met in the two year experiment to rank NHL playoff teams 1 through 16 in 1980 and 1981.
Detroit was looking for its first Cup win since 1955, and to avenge the shocking four-game sweep to New Jersey in 1995. Philadelphia was trying to win its first Cup since 1975 in its first Finals appearance in 10 years.
In 1995-96, the Detroit Red Wings set an NHL record for most wins in a regular season. It was thought that the team would easily capture the Stanley Cup, but a powerful and hungrier Colorado Avalanche halted their 41-year journey. In 1997, it was time for redemption and the team with the longest Cup drought in the NHL lost only four playoff games en route to a Stanley Cup title. Mike Vernon, the Detroit goaltender was fabulous and posted an incredible 1.76 goals-against average in the playoffs becoming the first goaltender to win the Conn Smythe Trophy since Patrick Roy in 1993. One week after the Detroit triumph, defensemen Vladimir Konstantinov and Slava Fetisov along with trainer Sergei Mnatsakanov were involved in a single car accident. Although Fetisov escaped with minor injuries, the other two men were hospitalized for months. Konstantinov never played hockey again and remains confined to a wheelchair.