The 1997 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the championship of the National Hockey League (NHL), began on April 16, 1997 following the completion of the 1996–97 NHL season. The sixteen teams that qualified, eight from each conference, played best-of-seven series for conference quarter-finals, semi-finals and championships, and then the conference champions played a best-of-seven series for the Stanley Cup.
This was the first playoff series between these two teams. This series marked the first appearance of a team representing Ottawa in the Stanley Cup playoffs in 67 years. The most recent team to represent Ottawa prior to this was the original Ottawa Senators who lost in the Quarterfinal round in 1930.
(3) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (5) New York Rangers
This was the tenth playoff series between these two teams, with Philadelphia having won five of the nine previous series. Their most recent meeting was in the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals which Philadelphia won in four games. The Rangers made their third conference final appearance and first since defeating New Jersey in seven games in 1994. Philadelphia made their fifth conference final appearance and first since losing to New Jersey in five games in 1995.
New York out shot Philadelphia in game one 25–21, but the Flyers ended up winning 3–1. Wayne Gretzky had his second hat trick of the playoffs in game two as the Rangers edged the Flyers 5–4. With the series tied at 1–1, the two teams moved to Madison Square Garden in New York for games three and four. This time it was the Flyers' Eric Lindros who netted a hat trick as Philadelphia won 6–3. In game four Lindros broke a 2–2 tie with just seven seconds remaining in regulation, the Flyers won 3–2. The Rangers scored twice in 26 seconds in the first period to take a 2–1 lead. The Flyers scored three unanswered goals and won the game 4–2 and the series four games to one. This would be the last playoff game for both Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier as neither of the players' teams made the postseason for the rest of their careers.
(1) Colorado Avalanche vs. (3) Detroit Red Wings
This was the second playoff series between these two teams, with Colorado winning the only previous series. This was a rematch of the previous season's Western Conference Finals, which Colorado won in six games. This was Detroit's third straight and fifth overall conference finals appearance, while it was Colorado's fourth trip to conference finals in franchise history. The rivalry between the two teams was as heated as ever after the events of a brawl during a game on March 26th still fresh.
The Red Wings played a determined game one as Brendan Shanahan broke a scoreless tie at 1:13 of the third period to give Detroit a 1–0 lead. Joe Sakic scored just 27 seconds later and Mike Ricci added another at 6:13 gave Colorado a 2–1 lead that they would not relinquish. In game two Colorado led 2–0 but Detroit pulled to within one on a power-play goal by Igor Larionov at 16:51 of the second period. The Red Wings then went on to score three times in the third period to win 4–2 and tie the series at one game apiece. In game three the Red Wings got two goals from Vyacheslav Kozlov and went on to win 2–1. Detroit won game four as well by a score of 6–0. Red Wings goaltender Mike Vernon made 19 saves in the shutout and Igor Larionov and Kirk Maltby both scored twice. Detroit now led the series three games to one. Embarrassed and frustrated after such a lopsided loss in game four Colorado came right back in game five with a 6–0 win of their own, Patrick Roy stopped all 32 shots he faced. Claude Lemieux and Joe Sakic both scored two goals in the victory. In game six the Red Wings looked to close out the series. Sergei Fedorov's goal at 6:11 of the third period gave Detroit a 2–0 lead. Scott Young pulled Colorado to within one on a goal at 14:48 but the Avalanche could not score the equalizer, and Brendan Shanahan sealed the game and series for Detroit with an empty net goal at 19:30.
This was the first and to date only playoff series between these two teams. Detroit made their twentieth appearance in the Finals and first since 1995. Philadelphia made their seventh appearance in the Finals and first since 1987. Detroit last won the Stanley Cup in 1955, while Philadelphia last won the Stanley cup in 1975.