The Detroit Red Wings, who had lost in the Stanley Cup finals the previous year, set a new record with 62 victories but fell 1 point short of the Montreal Canadiens' record of 132 points, set in 1976-77. Scotty Bowman, who had coached that Montreal team, was now coaching Detroit.
The Quebec Nordiques, who had won the Northeast Division of the Eastern Conference in 1994-95, became the Colorado Avalanche before the season began. They moved into the Western Conference's Pacific Division and finished first in their new division with the league's second highest point total. In the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia Flyers led the Atlantic Division with 103 points and the Pittsburgh Penguins had 102 points to lead the Northeast Division.
Pittsburgh once again had Mario Lemieux. After sitting out the previous season because of continuing back problems and his battle against Hodgkin's disease, he led the league in scoring for the fifth time and also won his fifth Hart Trophy as MVP. Another superstar, Wayne Gretzky, in the twilight of his career, was traded from Los Angeles to the St. Louis Blues in mid-season. The trade that sent goalie Patrick Roy from Montreal to Colorado may have been even more important.
Colorado beat the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks in six games each to advance to the Western Conference finals, where they also eliminated the Red Wings in a six-game series. Meanwhile, the Florida Panthers advanced to the Stanley Cup finals in only their third season in the league. Largely because of John Vanbiesbrouck's goaltending, the Panthers went through the Boston Bruins, Flyers, and Penguins to win the Eastern Conference finals.
Vanbiesbrouck and the Panthers ran out of magic, though. With Roy giving up just one goal in each game, Colorado won the first two at home and pulled out a 3-2 victory at Miami on Joe Sakic's goal, his sixth game-winner of the playoffs. The fourth game went into a third overtime, when Uwe Krupp scored on a slapshot from the point for a 1-0 win,
Sakic, who had 34 points in Colorado's 22 playoff games, won the Conn Smythe as the post-season MVP.