The Presidents' Trophy-winning Pittsburgh Penguins, who had won the Stanley Cup the previous two years were the favourite to repeat. However, both conferences saw numerous upsets as the third place team in every division reached their respective conference finals.
Although Boston had entered the playoffs with the second best record in the entire NHL and the Sabres had the second lowest point total of any playoff team, Buffalo upset the Bruins by sweeping the heavily favored Boston squad. The fourth game saw Brad May's game-winning goal in overtime, which has become famous in NHL lore thanks to Rick Jeanneret's "May day!" call.
(A2) Quebec Nordiques vs. (A3) Montreal Canadiens
This was the fifth and most recent playoff series between these two teams, with the teams splitting the previous four series. This was the final playoff series between the provincial rivals before the Nordiques moved to Denver in 1995 and became the Colorado Avalanche.
The Canadiens lost the first two games of this series against the rival Nordiques, due in part to a couple of weak goals let in by star Montreal goaltender Patrick Roy. Afterward, a newspaper in Roy's hometown district suggested that he be traded, while Nordiques goaltending coach Dan Bouchard also proclaimed that his team had solved Roy. However, Montreal coach Jacques Demers held himself to a promise he had made to Roy earlier in the season and kept him as the starting goalie.
With Montreal staring a potential 3–0 series deficit to Quebec in the face, overtime in game three was marked by two disputed goals that were reviewed by the video goal judge. The first review ruled that Stephan Lebeau had knocked the puck in with a high stick, but the second upheld Montreal's winning goal as it was directed in by the skate of Quebec defenceman Alexei Gusarov and not that of a Montreal player.
(P1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (P4) New Jersey Devils
The two-time defending Stanley Cup champions were a heavy favorite to be the first team since the 1980-83 New York Islanders to win more than two consecutive Cups. Entering the playoffs as the Presidents' Trophy winner, the Penguins faced off against the fourth place team from their division the New Jersey Devils. By winning the first three games of the series Pittsburgh extended its playoff winning streak to fourteen games; this dated back to game four of the 1992 Patrick Division Final against the New York Rangers and set an NHL playoff record for longest winning streak. The streak ended in game four when the Devils defeated Pittsburgh by a score of 4–1. The Penguins quickly closed out the Devils in the next game by a score of 5–2 to advance to the second round.
(P2) Washington Capitals vs. (P3) New York Islanders
The Islanders won the series in six games for their first playoff series win since defeating Washington in a seven game affair in 1987.
Game six of this series was marred by a vicious hit by the Capitals' Dale Hunter on the Islanders' leading scorer, Pierre Turgeon moments after Turgeon had scored a third-period goal to put the game and the series out of reach for Washington. Turgeon suffered a separated shoulder on the play and missed almost all of the next round. Hunter received a 21-game suspension for his actions, the longest in NHL history at the time, which was served during the 1993–94 season.
(N1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (N4) St. Louis Blues
The Blackhawks became the second division champion after the Bruins to be swept in the first round of the playoffs. Chicago goaltender Ed Belfour complained that St. Louis star Brett Hull had interfered with him on the play, but to no avail as the goal stood as the game and series winner. Belfour famously went on a rampage after the game breaking a hot tub, coffee maker, and television in the visitors' locker room at the St. Louis Arena.
(N2) Detroit Red Wings vs. (N3) Toronto Maple Leafs
In a revival of the heated Original Six rivalry, Nikolai Borschevsky's game seven overtime goal gave Toronto the series and made them the sixth club to eliminate a team with a better regular season record in the first round of the playoffs. This was also Toronto's first playoff series win over Detroit since the Leafs beat the Wings in the 1964 Stanley Cup Finals.
(S1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (S4) Winnipeg Jets
Vancouver managed to defeat the Jets in six games and eliminate them in the first round for a second consecutive year. Game six was not without controversy as Greg Adams scored the first goal for the Canucks, however video replay showed the goal was clearly scored with a high-stick, the goal was allowed to stand. Adams went on to score the game winner in overtime and once again the goal was surrounded with controversy as video replay showed Adams crashing into the net and goalie Bob Essensa. This sent the puck into the net with the back of Essensa's skate. The goal also counted and Jet fans in attendance began to throw debris onto the ice in frustration with the call.
(S2) Calgary Flames vs. (S3) Los Angeles Kings
The Kings upset the Flames in a high scoring six game series. The winning team scored 9 goals in three of the six games. Trailing two games to one and having lost two straight, Kings coach Barry Melrose inserted backup goalie Robb Stauber for the struggling Kelly Hrudey who had allowed 17 goals against in three games. Stauber played brilliantly in the Kings 3-1 win in game four as the series was tied at two wins apiece. The Kings offense was largely responsible for winning the series scoring 9 goals in both game five and six.
(A3) Montreal Canadiens vs. (A4) Buffalo Sabres
Montreal swept the series winning every game by a score of 4–3. A pivotal moment came in the second period of game three when Sabres star Alexander Mogilny suffered a badly broken leg, ending what had been a tremendous campaign of 76 goals in 77 regular season games followed by 7 goals in 7 playoff games. As in their previous series Montreal played three overtime games, this time winning all three of them.
(P1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (P3) New York Islanders
The Islanders upset the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions. David Volek's overtime goal in game seven was the deciding goal as New York rallied from a 3-2 deficit to defeat the Penguins. Islanders defenceman Darius Kasparaitis played a large role in his team's win neutralizing Pittsburgh stars Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr with big hits. With their upset of Pittsburgh the Islanders reached the Wales Conference Finals for the first time since 1984. To date this was the most recent playoff series victory for the Islanders.
(N3) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (N4) St. Louis Blues
Toronto defeated St. Louis in seven games despite Blues' goaltender Curtis Joseph's best efforts. St. Louis was heavily outshot throughout the series including more than 60 shots in game one alone. Game seven of the series was the first seventh game to be played at Maple Leaf Gardens since game seven of the 1964 Stanley Cup Finals.
(S1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (S3) Los Angeles Kings
This was the first Smythe Division Final since 1982 not to have either the Calgary Flames or the Edmonton Oilers. The Vancouver Canucks, who easily won the regular season Smythe Division title, were strong favourites over the Kings. Vancouver's 5-2 win in game one did nothing to change that. Kings coach Barry Melrose re-inserted Kelly Hrudey as the Kings starting goalie in game two and he responded with a strong effort as the Kings evened the series with a 6-3 win. After the teams split the two games in Los Angeles, they headed back to Vancouver for the crucial game five. Kings forward Gary Shuchuk scored on a rebound during a goal mouth scramble late in the second overtime and the Kings skated off the ice in front of a stunned Vancouver home crowd with a 3-2 series lead. Back in Los Angeles for game six the Canucks could not recover as the Kings jumped out to a 5-1 lead in game six and won the series despite two late Canuck goals.
This was the only time during this era (1982–1993) that a Canadian team did not advance to the Conference Final representing the Smythe Division.
(A3) Montreal Canadiens vs. (P3) New York Islanders
Montreal's win in game three was their eleventh straight, tying the single-playoff record set a year earlier by Pittsburgh and Chicago. Montreal added two more overtime victories during the series bringing their total to seven straight for the playoffs.
During game one Los Angeles blue-liner Marty McSorley delivered a serious open-ice hit on Toronto's Doug Gilmour. Leafs captain Wendel Clark took exception to the hit and went after McSorley for striking their star player. Toronto coach Pat Burns tried scaling the bench to get at Los Angeles coach Barry Melrose because he thought Melrose ordered the hit on Gilmour. After the game McSorley remarked in interviews that he received dozens of messages threatening death on his hotel phone from angry fans. Toronto took a 3–2 series lead heading into the controversial game six in Los Angeles. With the game tied at four in overtime Wayne Gretzky high sticked Doug Gilmour in the face cutting his chin open. Many thought that referee Kerry Fraser should have called a five minute major penalty and a game misconduct on the play (generally given for high sticking penalties that result in a cut at that time). However Gretzky was not penalized and went on to score the winning goal moments later evening the series at three games each. In game seven Wayne Gretzky scored a hat trick and added an assist to give the Kings another 5-4 win and the first Stanley Cup Finals berth in team history. Gretzky later called game seven of the 1993 Campbell Conference Finals the greatest game he had ever played.
This was the first and to date only playoff series between these two teams. The Canadiens had not won a Stanley Cup since 1986. This was the thirty-fourth and most recent Finals appearance for Montreal, while Los Angeles made their first ever appearance in the Finals. This was Wayne Gretzky's only appearance in the Finals with the Kings.