Stanley Cup Finals

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Detroit Red Wings

Records: Philadelphia 45-24-12; Detroit 38-26-18.

Home records: Philadelphia 23-12-6 regular season, 6-2 playoffs; Detroit 20-12-9 regular season, 7-1 playoffs.

Road records: Philadelphia 22-12-7 regular season, 6-1 playoffs; Detroit 18-14-9 regular season, 5-3 playoffs.

Season Series: Detroit 1-0-1.

Previous playoff record: None.

Top scorers: Philadelphia -- John LeClair, 50-47--97 regular season, Eric Lindros, 11-12--23 playoffs; Detroit -- Brendan Shanahan, 47-41--88 regular season, Sergei Fedorov, 5-9--14 playoffs.

About Philadelphia: The Flyers, seeded third in the East when the playoffs began, finished each of their playoff series quickly, defeating Pittsburgh, Buffalo and the New York Rangers in five games each. Eric Lindros, anointed by Mario Lemieux as the NHL's next torchbearer, got a similar endorsement from the Rangers' Mark Messier, who said Lindros "had a great series from Game 1." But don't overlook the contributions of Rod Brind'Amour, who went on a tear after being moved from left wing back to his natural center position and has 10 goals and 17 points. Rookie right wing Dainius Zubrus (five goals, nine points) looked impressive on the Legion of Doom line with Lindros and John LeClair. Defensemen Janne Niinimaa (one goal, 10 points) and Paul Coffey (one goal, nine points) give the Flyers formidable offensive weapons. Goalie Ron Hextall, voted the playoff MVP in 1987 after the Flyers lost a splendid seven-game series to Edmonton, has regained the starting job from Garth Snow.

About Detroit: Go figure. Last season, after the Red Wings won a record 62 games, they were favored to win the Cup but lost to Colorado in the Western Conference finals; this season, despite winning 24 fewer games, they have made it to the finals after being seeded third. The difference is the resilience they've shown in scrapping their way past St. Louis in six games, the Mighty Ducks in four and the Avalanche in six. These guys aren't afraid to dump the puck in and fight for it and don't have to rely exclusively on finesse, as they did in the past. Watch left wing Vyacheslav Kozlov, who leads the Red Wings with eight goals and may have one of the best backhand shots in the NHL. He has been playing with Sergei Fedorov, who played like a man possessed against the Avalanche, and speedy right wing Doug Brown. Much-maligned goalie Mike Vernon (1.82 goals-against average, .922 save percentage) has been solid. This could be the final go-round for coach Scotty Bowman, who is widely expected to retire after the season.

Pub Date: 5/30/97

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