The Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers, the Stanley Cup finalists from the previous season, were the NHL's top teams regular season. The Oilers had 119 points to lead the Smythe Division, while the Flyers had 110 to finish first in the Patrick Division, just 3 points ahead of the Washington Capitals.
There were very tight races in the Norris and Smythe Divisions. In the Smythe, only 12 points separated the first-place Quebec Nordiques from the fifth-place Buffalo Sabres. The Canadiens finished 5 points behind Quebec, while the Bruins were another point back and the Hartford Whalers were only 2 points behind the Bruins. The Chicago Blackhawks won the Norris Division by 1 point over the Minnesota North Stars, who were just 2 points ahead of the St. Louis Blues.
Edmonton's Wayne Gretzky scored 'only' 52 goals, but he set another NHL record with 215 points, thanks to an incredible 163 assists. His teammate, Paul Coffey, had 48 goals, breaking Bobby Orr's record for a defenseman, and Gretzky's linemate, Jari Kurri, led the league with 68 goals. Coffey and Kurri finished third and fourth in the scoring race. Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux was second with 141 points.
The Calgary Flames, who had finished 30 points behind Edmonton, beat the Oilers in a seven-game Smythe Division final on a fluke goal, when Edmonton defenseman Steve Smith hit his own goalie with a clearing pass and the puck bounced into the net. Calgary then defeated the St. Louis Blues in another seven-game series to win the Campbell Conference championship.
Led by rookie goalie Patrick Roy, the Canadiens swept Boston and outlasted Hartford in a seven-game series to win the Adams Division title and then beat the New York Rangers in five games to advance to the Stanley Cup finals against Calgary.
It was the first all-Canadien final since 1967. The Flames won the first game easily, 5-2, but the Canadiens pulled out a 3-2 overtime win in Game 2 at Calgary and won the next three in a row for their 23rd Stanley Cup championship.
Roy, who won 15 games and gave up only 1.92 goals a game, won the Conn Smythe trophy as the MVP of the playoffs.