In the spring of 1997, a quarter century ago, the Detroit Red Wings embarked on their quest to end a 42-year Stanley Cup drought.
The Free Press has commemorated this historic quest with a new book:Stanleytown: The inside story of the Stanley Cup’s return to motor town after 41 frustrating seasons.”
Day 24: May 9, 1997
The backstory: With hopes of nine or 10 days between playoffs, the Red Wings returned to Motor City after completing their sweep of the Mighty Ducks at 3:27 a.m. Detroit time. After their 3-2 win in two overtimes, a red-eye steal over Red Bird and a day off at home, their attention may turn to the other Western Conference semifinal. Late that night, the bad news came from Edmonton, where the Colorado Avalanche defeated the Oilers, 3-2, for a three-game series lead. Worse still, archvillain Claude Lemieux scored the decisive goal at 8:35 of overtime. But even worse, the NHL has said it could bring the Western Conference Finals forward by a few days if the Avs win Game 5. Nonetheless, coach Scotty Bowman gave the Wings the weekend, the team’s first three-day break since All-Star. Game.
By the numbers: A final look at the bizarre stats of the Wings-Ducks series: 223-131 — The Wings’ advantage in shots on goal, including 63-35 in six overtimes. 5⅓ — How many games the sweep took in game time counting one hour, 19 minutes and 33 seconds of overtime. 40:49 – The time the Wings held a lead. The Ducks led for 1:06:20 and it was tied for 3:32:24. 5 — The Wings’ margin of victory (13 goals against eight), thanks to the victory over the Ducks, 8-2, in the third period and overtime. 73 — Shots on Ducks goaltender Mikhail Shtalenkov in Game 4. 47 — Playoff shots by Nicklas Lidstrom before scoring his first goal, which tied Game 4 in the third period. 17 — Russian Five points in the series, on six goals and 11 assists. 27.3 — Doug Brown’s shooting percentage with three goals on 11 shots. 1.50 and .939 — Mike Vernon’s goals-against-average and save percentage. 5 – Sergei Fedorov’s points and plus/minus rating for the series, which led both teams. (Next with four points were Slava Kozlov and Vladimir Konstantinov for Detroit and Paul Kariya and Dmitri Mironov for Anaheim. Next with plus-4 scores were Igor Larionov, Slava Fetisov and Larry Murphy for Detroit.)
In Alberta: The number one seeded Avalanche had wins over the seventh seeded Oilers in Games 1 and 2 (5-1 and 4-1). But at home, the Oilers won Game 3, 4-3, and the Avalanche lost superstar Peter Forsberg to a concussion. The Oilers led 2-1 in Game 4 until Lemieux set up a Sandis Ozolinsh goal late in the second period. Then Lemieux finished it in overtime by grabbing a rebound and pressing it past Curtis Joseph. That gave Lemieux nine playoff goals — league highs — and one goal in six straight games. “It’s a great opportunity for me to win three Cups in three years with two different teams,” said Lemieux, the playoff most valuable player when the Devils swept the Wings in 1995 and a key agitator when the Avs won in 1996. “I try not to think about it, but it would be huge. Goaltender Patrick Roy said: “Claude has played exceptionally since the start of the playoffs. In the playoffs, you know he’ll be there game after game. Unless the Oilers win three straight games, the Western Finals would open at McNichols Arena in Denver, where Lemieux fractured Kris Draper’s face in the final game of the 1996 Conference Finals.
Off ice: Not only did the Wings win all three overtime games against the Ducks, radio analyst Paul Woods correctly predicted on-air who would score the game-clinching goal in each case: Martin Lapointe in Game 1, Kozlov in Game 2 and Brendan Shanahan in game 4. His partner, Ken Kal, couldn’t believe it. “Last night I said, ‘OK, Swami, what is your fearless prediction tonight?’ “recalls Kal. “He says, ‘Well, it’s between Fedorov and Shanahan, and I think it will be Shanahan. … It’s amazing, and I don’t know what to make of it. It’s probably his sense of the game, his great knowledge of who plays well and all that. Hey, Woodsy knows his hockey. So I’m definitely not going to say he’s just lucky, although I guess there’s a bit of luck involved. But when you pick three in a row, damn it, you definitely have to know Something.
Famous Last Words: From associate coach Dave Lewis after the Ducks were eliminated: “We have so many heart and soul guys. Brendan Shanahan, Darren McCarty, Joey Kocur, Vladdie Konstantinov. There are so many character guys. They don’t seem to get confused. It’s great to see the guys believe in themselves the way they do.
Relive the Glory: The free press designed a 208-page, full-color, hardcover collector’s book with fresh perspectives and dynamic storytelling on fenders 1996-97. It’s titled, “Stanleytown 25 Years Later: The Inside Story on the Stanley Cup’s Return to Motor Town After 41 Frustrating Seasons.” It’s only $29.95 and it’s available at RedWings.PictorialBook.com. (This will make a great Father’s Day gift for the Wings fanatic in your life!) Custom copies available via [email protected]
More to read: Another new Wings book arrived in April from Keith Gave, a longtime hockey writer for the Free Press in the 1980s and 1990s:Vlad the Impaler: More Epic Stories from ’97 Stanley Cup Winning.” It is available through Amazon and other booksellers with a portion of the proceeds going to the Vladimir Konstantinov Special Needs Trust. (Much of Gave’s prose also appears in “Stanleytown 25 Years Later”.)
More to read: The Red Wings beat reporter Helene St. James, who helped cover the Stanley Cup run in 1997, recently wrote:The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Detroit Red Wings.” Featuring many stories about key characters from 1997, “The Big 50” is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. (A lot of St. James prose also appears in “Stanleytown 25 Years Later”.)
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