blank'/> THE PUCK REPORT: NHL Tiebreaker Rules and Playoff Seeding

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

NHL Tiebreaker Rules and Playoff Seeding

NHL realignment and recent revisions to the tie-breaker system, discounting the value of a shootout win in determining regular season standings, have altered tiebreaker rules and playoff seeding.

First off, the top three teams in each division automatically qualify for the postseason with two wildcard spots being awarded to the next highest ranked teams in each conference. And yes, it is possible for both wildcard berths in a conference to come from the same division, meaning one division sends five teams to the playoffs while the other sends only three.

Total regular season points rules the day in ordering the top three teams in each division as well as wildcard winners. The division winner with the most points is then matched against the wildcard team with the fewest points in the conference, leaving the other division winner to play the remaining wildcard team, while the second and third place finishers in each division battle in the opening round of the playoffs.

If teams collect the same number of points, the one with more regulation and overtime wins (statistically abbreviated as ROW) jumps ahead in the standings. Shootout wins DO NOT COUNT for tiebreaker purposes.

If teams share the same number of points and wins (i.e., regulation + overtime wins, excluding shootout wins), then the club with more points in their head-to-head season series prevails. If an odd number of games occurred between the teams, points collected in the first game in the city hosting an extra match will be discounted in the math.

If teams remain tied after calculating points, wins (i.e., regulation + overtime wins, excluding shootout wins), and their head-to-head season series, then the team with the greatest positive difference between goals scored (GF) and goals allowed (GA) gets the nod.

In the unlikely event two teams remain tied in all of these categories at the end of the regular season, a tiebreaker game will be played. Home ice will be determined by a draw and playoff overtime rules will be in effect (i.e., 5-on-5, sudden death, 20 minute periods). Never before has such a game been played, though Montreal and Buffalo came close in 2000.

Points, ROW, head-to-head season series, GF minus GA, tiebreaker game. Now you know.

* See also NHL Playoff Seeding and Re-seeding Rules.


James Fraasch said...

Wait, the Pens seem to have the same amount of points as the Flyers but with two more wins. Why do the Flyers get the #1 seed?

MG said...

The Flyers had more regulation and overtime wins (44) than the Penguins (39) and that's what counts in the tiebreaker. Shootout wins are deducted from total wins for tiebreaker purposes.