Learn How to Read NHL Standings

Winnipeg Jets v Washington Capitals
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It seems like no two sources report NHL standings in exactly the same way, so sorting out where your team is and how it got there can be confusing for a hockey beginner. But the statistics used in NHL standings are actually simple and easy to understand once you get the hang of it. The most important numbers are wins, losses, ties, overtime or shootout losses, and points. All other numbers are important only for breaking ties or for analyzing strengths, weaknesses and trends.

Here's an explanation of how NHL conference standings differ from division standings and an outline of the tie-breaking procedures that are used when teams are tied in total points.

Game Standings 

This NHL shorthand is the easiest to understand. "GP" is number of games played. "W" tells you how many of those games were won. "L" stands for how many games were lost in regulation time, and "OTL" or "OL" tells you how many games were lost in overtime or in a shootout. "T" is the number of games that ended in a tie. 

Point Standings 

Teams are awarded two points for each win, one point for each overtime or shootout loss, and one point for each tie. Ties were eliminated as of the 2005-2006 NHL season, however.

"P" or "Pts" stands for total points, while "GF" or "F" tells you how many total goals were scored by the team. Goals scored during a shootout do not count towards a team's total. A team that wins a shootout is credited with one extra goal in the game and one extra goal in its season total.

"GA" or "A" is the total goals allowed by the team. Again, goals allowed during a shootout do not count towards a team's total. The team losing the shootout is charged with one extra goal-against in the game and one extra goal-against in its season total.

"PCT" is the percentage of total points earned from the points available.

Other Information 

"H" is the team's record at home, expressed as W-L-OTL, while "A" is its record away from home, also expressed as W-L-OTL. "Div" refers to the team's record within own division, again expressed as W-L-OTL.

"Last 10" or "L10" tells you the team's record over the last 10 games, expressed as W-L-OTL. "STK" or "ST" is the team's current streak of consecutive wins or losses. "GFA" is the average goals scored per game, while "GAA" is the average goals allowed per game.

How the Standings Determine Playoff Qualification

The NHL's 31 teams are divided into two conferences, each containing two divisions. The playoff schedule is set according to conference standings. Division standings matter for one reason only: The division leaders are seeded in order in the conference standings.

Otherwise, the standings are determined by total points. If two or more teams are tied in total points, the tie is broken using the following criteria, in order, until one winner is decided. 

  • Most wins
  • Most points in games against each other among the tied teams
  • The greater positive differential between goals scored for and against among the tied teams.