The first round of the Lewis Cup Playoffs was somewhat uneventful, even a little predictable. In the West, LA took out Dallas in a surprisingly tough six-game series, Minnesota swept Calgary, and California eliminated Denver. Only two series went the full seven games in the first round. The Chicago Shamrocks found themselves down 3-2 against the St. Louis Spirits before coming back to win games six and seven to win the series thanks to stellar play from Tim Massey in goal. The other seven-game series featured the battle of Quebec, where Montreal jumped to a 2-0 series lead before Quebec climbed back into the series with a pair of 3-0 victories. Ultimately, the home team would win every game in a hard-fought series highlighted by several fights as Montreal advanced. There would be two upsets in the Eastern Conference, Detroit and Washing each pulled off a first-round upset for the second straight year, with the Mustangs eliminating Ottawa in six games, while Washington stunned New York in six. Finally, Pittsburgh took out Toronto in five games.
In the second round, Washington continued their strong play against the Montreal Royale. After splitting the first four games 2-2, the Generals dropped game five in Montreal 4-1. Down 3-2 heading home for game six, the Generals managed to get a big 3-1 win thanks to goals from Billy Little, Craig Tucker, and Tommy McGuire. Game seven in Montreal remained tied 3-3 heading into overtime. Don Lapin and JC Richard both stood on their heads as one overtime turned into two, then three. Halfway through the third overtime, Gerry Stokes finally ended it with his fourth goal of the series to send Washington to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Generals would meet Pittsburgh in the Eastern Final, after the Stingers defeated Detroit in five games.
In the West, the defending champion Minnesota Lumberjacks faced the California Nuggets, a team that had always flown under the radar despite being stocked with elite talent. In Minnesota, Guy Dupont was playing in his final playoffs and he was determined to go out a winner. After the teams split the first four games, the Nuggets became confident they could compete with the powerful Lumberjacks team. In game five, Yvon Tremblay turned in a heroic performance in net for California, stopping 55 shots as Dennis Yates, Alan Chadwick, and Thomas Akerlund each scored to give the Nuggets a 3-1 victory. In game six in San Francisco, the Nuggets had a chance to close out the series and they would not waste it. Former Detroit Mustang Ken Gilbert proved to be the overtime hero for California, sliding the puck just under Bobby Sorel to send the Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals.
The Western Final would feature the battle of California after the LA Wizards defeated Chicago in six games. The series started off tight, with each team winning a game at home and on the road to split the series 2-2. In game five, LA managed to win a tight one 3-2 thanks to three points each from Holly and Fowler. It appeared that the Wizards had finally taken control of the series heading into game six with a chance to win it on the road. Down 1-0 after two periods, and with Dennis Carter shutting the door on them, the California Nuggets were in a tough spot. Suddenly, with just four minutes to go, Jacques Lambert’s point shot found the back of the LA net to tie the game. Just seconds later, Bruce Dickenson stunned Carter with a quick shot from the outside. The Nuggets now led 2-1. LA pulled Carter in an attempt to tie it but before they got a shot on goal Alan Chadwick sealed the 3-1 win for California to send the series to game seven. Still rattled from game six, the Wizards never managed to get into game seven. California led 4-0 heading into the third. Ray Fowler scored one to break the shutout but it was too little too late. For the second straight year, LA came up short while their cross-state rivals advanced to the Lewis Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history.
In the Eastern Conference Finals, Washington looked to complete their Cinderella story against the Pittsburgh Stingers. Tied 2-2 after four games, Washington gave themselves a chance to move on with a 2-1 win in game five. Back home for game six, the Generals showed incredible resilience as Pittsburgh continuously took the lead while Washington responded with the tying goal each time. Tied 3-3, the game went into overtime. Just 18 seconds into OT, George Little knocked a rebound past Stingers goalie Gary Bowen. For the first time since 1955, when the team was still playing in Hamilton, the Washington Generals would advance to the Lewis Cup Finals.