Explaining ROW in Hockey – Regulation & Overtime Wins

Posted on May 19, 2024 by Dan Kent
Regulation and Overtime Wins

Hockey enthusiasts often examine the NHL standings to determine which teams are in playoff positions and which are not. 

After all, the ultimate goal for any team is to secure a spot in the postseason. One key statistic that aids in this determination is the ROW stat, an acronym for Regulation plus Overtime Wins.

What is ROW in the hockey standings?

The ROW stat is a tiebreaker in ice hockey standings and is calculated by subtracting shootout victories from a team's record. This method places a higher value on wins achieved through regulation time and overtime play than shootout victories. 

Shootouts are heavily dependent on individual performances from the shooter, goaltender, and even lucky bounces. Although winning a game in a shootout will give the team extra points, in the event of a tiebreaker to determine the playoffs, they want teams that won more on a team basis to qualify.

With shootouts being more individualized, the National Hockey League didn't want those wins determining what team made the playoffs in the event of a tie. For this reason, they created ROW.

How do teams get points in the standings?

In the NHL, games result in either a win or a loss. Ties were eliminated quite some time ago. So, although there is always a winner, there are various methods through which wins and points are earned. 

The chart below highlights six different potential outcomes for each team and the corresponding points they receive.

Result

Points

Regulation Win

2

Regulation Loss

0

Overtime Win

2

Overtime Loss

1

Shootout Win

2

Shootout Loss

1

From this chart, we can come to some conclusions:

  • A regulation loss is the only scenario in which a team earns zero points.
  • The losing team still receives one point if a game goes into overtime or a shootout.
  • In any winning situation, the victorious team is awarded two points.

This points system influences the NHL standings, directly impacting a team's position and overall performance throughout the season. 

These accumulated points form the basis of the NHL standings, where team rankings, winning percentages, and other critical metrics are determined.

Understanding these aspects is crucial in comprehending how the points system correlates with the overall performance of NHL teams.

Why did ROW (Regulation plus Overtime Wins) come into play?

Not all wins are considered equal by enthusiasts and traditionalists, particularly since the shootout has come into play. 

Many people disapprove of shootouts because they perceive them as a gimmick and a test of individual skills rather than a demonstration of a team's abilities. This viewpoint is reflected in the sentiment that deciding a team game based on a particular skills contest may be unfair.

The NHL somewhat recognizes this argument, as it does not consider shootout wins equal to regulation or overtime wins. They believe winning a game during regulation or overtime is more important and valuable than during a shootout. 

This discrepancy often led to debates and concerns over playoff qualifications, as teams with more overtime wins could make the playoffs, while teams with more regulation wins might not.

This dilemma ultimately led to the ROW (Regulation plus Overtime Wins) creation in hockey, where the NHL gives more precedence to wins gained in regulation and overtime, as opposed to shootout wins. 

ROW serves as a tiebreaker when teams have the same number of points in the standings, ensuring a more fair and weighted approach to determining a team's success and position in the league.

Let’s look at an example where ROW comes into play

Let's look at a simple example to see who would make the playoffs.

Team A

Metric

Team A

Team B

GP

82

82

Wins

42

40

Losses

34

32

OTL

6

10

Points

90

90

RW

34

35

ROW

37

39

Both teams have the exact point totals (90). So, one could assume that team A, the team with 42 wins, would make the playoffs. 

However, this isn't the case. Focus on the green highlighted column.

Although Team A has two more wins than Team B because they only won 34 of their 42 games in regulation, while Team B won 35 games in regulation, team B has the higher ROW and would be awarded the playoff spot.

What if the ROW is the same between teams?

If hockey teams have an identical ROW stat, a set of tiebreakers is applied to determine priority. The process unfolds as follows:

  1. Most wins: The NHL looks at the team with just the most wins, period. If again they're tied, it moves to head-to-head play. The team who got more points head-to-head than the other team will make the playoffs.
  2. Head-to-Head Points: The team with the most points earned in games directly against each other takes precedence. In case of an odd number of head-to-head games, the first game held at the venue with more home games is excluded from consideration.
  3. Goal Differential: Should the tie persist, the team with the larger difference between goals scored and goals conceded throughout the regular season is granted the higher playoff position or playoff spot.

By following these tie-breaking procedures, the NHL ensures a fair and consistent method for resolving ROW ties and determining playoff standings. They will simply go by the highest-scoring team if goal differential doesn't solve it. But this is an infrequent situation.

Dan Kent

About the author

Growing up in a hockey hotbed (Calgary, Alberta. And yes, I'm an Oiler fan), I decided to put my love and knowledge of the game to work. I started at five and am still playing today into my early 30s. By acquiring Brave Stick Hockey and rebranding it to Big Shot Hockey in 2023, I plan to teach people about this great game and educate them on the best equipment and history of the game. On a career level, I am in finance, running one of the largest financial websites in Canada, Stocktrades.ca.

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