Journalists and fans alike had predicted a Stanley Cup win for Detroit for several seasons. Between 1993-94 and 1995-96, Detroit had finished first in their division each season. But after a monster regular season in 1995-96 (131 points), the Red Wings finished second to Dallas in the Central Division, compiling 94 points. Detroit pushed St. Louis out of the way in the first round, beat Anaheim in the second and defeated the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche in the third round. In the Stanley Cup final, the Red Wings were paired with the Philadelphia Flyers. MIKE VERNON carried the goaltending duties during the playoffs. In 20 games, VERNON and the Wings logged 16 victories, including one shutout. With a microscopic goals against average of 1.76, MIKE VERNON was presented with the CONN SMYTHE TROPHY as the best player in the playoffs for 1996-97.