The Boston Bruins were the only NHL team to accumulate more than 100 points. The league and its adherents called it parity. Detractors called it mediocrity. Certainly it made for close divisional races.
The Bruins led the Adams Division by only 3 points over the Buffalo Sabres. The defending Stanley Cup champion Calgary Flames had 99 points to win the Smythe Division by 9 points over the Edmonton Oilers, while the New York Rangers won the Patrick Division with 2 points more than the New Jersey Devils and the Chicago Blackhawks led the St. Louis Blues by 5 points in the Norris Division.
Wayne Gretzky was the league's leading scorer for the eighth time, though his 142 points was his lowest total since his first season in the NHL. In the course of the season, Gretzky became the league's all-time scoring leader, surpassing Gordie Howe's previous career record of 1,850 points. Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux, who had led the league the previous two seasons, missed 21 games because of injury and the Penguins dropped completely out of the playoffs.
Mark Messier, who had become the leader of the Edmonton Oilers after Gretzky was traded away, won the Hart Trophy as the NHL's regular-season MVP. Messier had 45 goals and 84 assists, while Brett Hull of St. Louis scored 72 goals, a record for right wingers.
Gretzky's Los Angeles Kings, who finished in fourth place, upset the Flames in the first round and were in turn eliminated by the Oilers in the division final. The Oilers then won the Campbell Conference championship in a six-game series with the Chicago Blackhawks.
It took the Bruins seven games to eliminate the Hartford Whalers in the first playoff round, but they then swept Montreal and Pittsburgh to reach the Stanley Cup finals.
The Oilers won the first game of the final series at Boston when Petr Klima scored after 5 minutes of play in the third overtime. They took the second game easily and then won two in a row after allowing the Bruins to steal Game 3 at Edmonton. Bill Ranford, who was in goal for all 16 post-season wins and allowed Boston only seven goals in the five-game final series, won the Conn Smythe Trophy.