The 1997 Stanley Cup playoffs, the championship of the National Hockey League (NHL), began in April, 1997, following 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.
The Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers met in the 1997 Eastern Conference Final. Philadelphia was coming off a relatively easy five-game series win over the Buffalo Sabres. New York, on the other hand, had just pulled off a big upset, defeating the top team in the East, the New Jersey Devils in five games. The Flyers were looking to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in ten years, while the Rangers were looking to advance to the Cup Finals with help from new additions like Wayne Gretzky, Esa Tikkanen, Russ Courtnall, David Oliver and Mike Eastwood.
New York outshot Philadelphia in game one at the CoreStates Center, 25–21, but the Flyers ended up winning, 3–1. Wayne Gretzky had his second hat trick of the playoffs in Game 2, 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 4, Lindros broke a 2–2 tie with just seven seconds remaining in regulation. The Flyers won 3–2. They now took a commanding three-games-to-one series lead back home to the CoreStates Center for Game 5 on Sunday, May 25. The Rangers scored twice in 26 seconds in the first period to take a 2–1 lead, but the Flyers scored three unanswered goals and won the game 4–2, and the series four games to one. This game would be the last playoff game that Gretzky would ever play in his career.
The Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings met in the 1997 Western Conference Final, in a series rematch of the previous year. The defending Stanley-Cup champion Avalanche had just defeated the Edmonton Oilers in five games while the Red Wings were fresh off a four-game sweep of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Colorado was looking to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second consecutive year and Detroit was hoping to get back to the Finals for the second time in three years. The rivalry between the two teams was as heated as ever, with the events of the March 26th game still fresh in everyone's mind.
The Red Wings played a determined game one at McNichols Arena in Denver. Brendan Shanahan broke a 0–0 tie at 1:13 of the first period to give Detroit a 1–0 lead, but a goal by Joe Sakic just 27 seconds later, and one by Mike Ricci at 6:13 gave Colorado a 2–1 lead that they would not relinquish. Avalanche goaltender Patrick Roy made 34 saves in the victory. 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. Patrick Roy made 36 saves in the loss. In game three at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, the Red Wings got two goals from Vyacheslav Kozlov and went on to win 2–1. Detroit won game four as well, 6–0, in an obvious statement to Colorado. 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. The Avalanche now trailed in the series three games to two. In game six on Monday, May 26, 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 for Detroit with an empty-net goal at 19:30. The Red Wings won 3–1 and took the series four games to two.
The Detroit Red Wings made their 20th appearance in a Final, first since 1995. The Philadelphia Flyers made their seventh appearance, first since 1987. The Red Wings, who had been swept in their previous appearance, this time swept the Flyers to win their eighth Cup title, and first since 1955.