The LA Wizards entered the 1979 playoffs with high hopes of winning their fourth consecutive Lewis Cup. The Wizards would begin their quest against their cross-state rivals, the California Nuggets. Not surprisingly, the Wizards won game one handily 5-2 with a hat-trick from Stuart Holly. Game two, however, would set the tone for the remainder of the series. California tightened up defensively while goaltender Yvon Tremblay turned in a solid 45-save performance in a 2-1 Nuggets win. After two more solid games from Tremblay and the Nuggets, the three-time defending champions found themselves down three games to one. The Wizards managed a face-saving 2-1 win in game five but would come up short in game six as California pulled off the upset and brought an end to LA’s impressive run. In other Western Conference action the Minnesota Lumberjacks took out Calgary with little difficulty in five games, St. Louis defeated Edmonton in five games, while Denver came all the way back from a 3-0 deficit to force game seven against Chicago, only to lose game seven 4-3 in double overtime to the Shamrocks.
In the East, Pittsburgh jumped to a 3-1 series lead against Detroit, but ultimately lost the following three games as Detroit won their first series since their dynasty days. Washington pulled off an upset of their own in seven games over Ottawa. It would be the first playoff series win for the franchise since 1956. Toronto upset New York four games to one, while Montreal won the battle of Quebec in six hard-fought games.
In the second round, the Minnesota Lumberjacks went into their series against the California Nuggets with extra motivation. With the LA Wizards eliminated, this was the Lumberjacks best shot in years at winning a title. California came up big, however, winning games two and three to take a 2-1 series lead. Knowing he had to step up, Guy Dupont scored two goals including the winner in game four, and scored the overtime winner in game five to give the Lumberjacks an opportunity to advance in game six. Minnesota dominated game six, winning 4-2 and advancing to the Western Conference Finals. In other second round action, Washington never stood a chance against Montreal, losing to the Royale in a sweep, Toronto defeated Detroit in five games, while Chicago upset St. Louis in seven games thanks to the heroic play in net from Tim Massey.
As the Conference Finals got underway, Montreal’s confidence was soaring high after a decisive sweep against Washington. The Royale earned a 4-1 win against Toronto in game one, but disaster struck. Montreal captain Gilbert Houle crashed heavily into the boards, separating his shoulder. Houle would miss the remainder of the series. Early in game two, superstar defenseman Pierre Gervais fractured his ankle while blocking a shot, Toronto went on to win the game 4-0. Game three was a full-on disaster for Montreal as the Racers routed the Royale 7-1. Toronto then followed up with a 4-1 win in game four to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. On the ropes for game five, the Royale managed to squeak out a 2-1 win, but it would be too little too late. Toronto took game six 4-0 to win the series and advance to their first Lewis Cup Finals since 1964.
In the Western Conference Final, Minnesota faced their fierce rivals, the Chicago Shamrocks for the right to play for the Lewis Cup. The teams didn’t waste any time going at each other. In the first two games, several fights broke out as Minnesota took a 2-0 series lead. In game three, Chicago came out strong in the first period to jump to a 3-0 lead. Phil Reid scored early in the third period, but Tim Massey shut the Lumberjacks down throughout the rest of the game as Chicago closed the gap to 2-1. Captain Guy Dupont stepped up once again in game four, scoring twice as the two teams skated to a 2-2 tie through regulation. Toward the end of the first overtime, James Cummings scored for Minnesota to give the Lumberjacks a 3-2 win and a chance to win the series in game five. Riding the momentum through game five, Roland Webb, Jeff Schneider, and Phil Reid each scored as Minnesota won the game 3-1, advancing to the Lewis Cup Finals for the first time since their 1971 victory.