The race for the top spot in the NHL was closer than it had ever been, and three of the four divisional races were also up for grabs. When it was all over, the Chicago Blackhawks led with 106 points, 1 point ahead of the St. Louis Blues in the Norris Division. The Los Angeles Kings led the Smythe Division with 102 points, while the Calgary Flames finished just behind them with 100. The Boston Bruins, first in the Adams Division, also had 100 points. The Pittsburgh Penguins finished first in the Patrick Division for the first time; they accumulated 88 points to 85 for the second-place New York Rangers.
The Blackhawks had the league's best defense, led by Vezina Trophy winner Ed Belfour, while the Blues' success was based mainly on an offense fueled by Brett Hull's 86 goals. Hull won the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player. The Kings had Wayne Gretzky, the league's scoring leader for the ninth time with 163 points, while the Bruins were led by Ray Bourque, the Norris Trophy winner, and Cam Neely's 51 goals.
But none of those 100-point teams made the Stanley Cup finals. The Penguins, though they had the worst record among the first-place teams, had done it despite losing superstar Mario Lemieux for 54 games because of back surgery. They had a healthy Lemieux for the playoffs. After a seven-game victory over the New Jersey Devils in the first round, they eliminated the Rangers in a five-game series and beat the Bruins in six games to win the Wales Conference final.
The Minnesota North Stars were the surprise winners in the Campbell Conference. They upset both St. Louis and Chicago, then defeated the Edmonton Oilers in a five-game conference championship series. The Oilers had got there by upsetting Calgary and Los Angeles.
For the first time since 1934, neither finalist had ever won the Stanley Cup. The teams split the first four games, each winning once at home and once on the road. Lemieux took over in Game 5 at Pittsburgh, accounting for 3 points as the Penguins took a 4-0 lead in the first period.
Game 6 was no contest. The Penguins wiped out the North Stars, 8-0, to win the cup. Lemieux won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs. He led all playoff scorers with 44 points and had 5 goals and 8 assists in the championship series, despite missing Game 3 because of his back problems.