Above, you see the standings at the top of the Metropolitan Division today. The Washington Capitals and the New York Islanders are tied. But it is more than that. The NHL tie-breaking guidelines provide for the following order in breaking standings ties:
If two or more clubs are tied in points during the regular season, the standing of the clubs is determined in the following order:
- The fewer number of games played (i.e., superior points percentage).
- The greater number of games won, excluding games won in the Shootout. This figure is reflected in the ROW column.
- The greater number of points earned in games between the tied clubs. If two clubs are tied, and have not played an equal number of home games against each other, points earned in the first game played in the city that had the extra game shall not be included. If more than two clubs are tied, the higher percentage of available points earned in games among those clubs, and not including any "odd" games, shall be used to determine the standing.
- The greater differential between goals for and against for the entire regular season. NOTE: In standings a victory in a shootout counts as one goal for, while a shootout loss counts as one goal against.
So, for the Caps and the Islanders this morning, they have the same number of points (85) in the same number of games (67), they have the same number of ROW – regulation and overtime wins (35), and, since they have played three games so far this season and would toss out the first game played in New York that the Caps won, they each have two points against the other. So, we are down to goal differential over the entire season. Here, the Islanders have a plus-33 to plus-20 edge.
So, let’s fast forward. The Caps and Islanders jockey for position like a couple of NASCAR racers drafting one another in the backstretch of the final lap. They get down to the last game of the regular season, Game 82, in Washington – Caps hosting the Islanders. The Isles have a two-point lead on the Caps, but a Caps win in regulation would put them in a tie with New York in points percentage and ROW wins.
Here is where things get weird. Pittsburgh has clinched the first wild-card spot in the standings; their last game on the same day has no bearing on that. Meanwhile, the Caps would be playing their fourth game of the season against the Islanders on this day, thus bringing that game in New York played back in November – a game the Caps won – back into tiebreaker consideration. If the Caps beat the Islanders in regulation, they win the division on the basis of points won against the Islanders, but their record is inferior to that of Tampa Bay. So, they get the first wild card in the first round: Pittsburgh. If they lose, or even win in extra time, they finish second and get, say, divisional third-place Carolina in the first round.
What do you root for?
We have to knock off the “PAM” pizzas.