When you look at the NHL standings you are trying to figure out who is on top. Or more accurately you are trying to figure out who is in a playoff position and who is not, because isn’t that what it is all about, making the playoffs?
And in determining who is in the playoffs you need to know what the ROW stat means to help figure that out.
What is ROW in the hockey standings? The ROW stands for Regulation plus Overtime Wins. The ROW subtracts the number of wins a team secures through the shootout from their overall total. It is then used as a tiebreaker between two teams tied in the standings. The team who has a higher ROW, will be placed higher in the standings.
Essentially the ROW is giving less value to a win that a team has gained through a shootout, and then uses the rest of the wins as the first determiner of a tiebreaker in the standings.
Let’s take a closer look at ROW. The first place we need to start is with the NHL standings.
How do you get points in the NHL standings?
In a game where there are only two outcomes (win or lose) at the end of the game there are surprisingly a number of different ways to get points.
The following charts shows the six different ways a hockey game can end for each team and the number of points they get with each outcome.
Here are a few things to note about the chart:
- There is only one way to end up with zero points out of a game and this is with a regulation loss
- If the game goes to overtime or the shootout, the team that loses still gets a point out of the contest
- The team that wins the game will always get two points
What does all of this have to do with ROW?
How did ROW come about?
To a hockey traditionalist not all of the ways that you can win a hockey game are equal. There are still a lot of people that do not like the shootout, because they see it as a gimmick and an individual skill contest. They will argue: how can you decide a team game based on an individual skill contest?
Is the shootout really nothing more than flipping a coin?
That is overstating the case, but the powers in the NHL agree with this argument to some extent because they do not see a win in a shootout as equal to a win in regulation or overtime.
There is a priority and greater weight in the eyes of the NHL to win in regulation or overtime versus overtime.
People would look at the standings and would get all worked up that a team might make the playoffs with a bunch of overtime wins while another sat home who had a bunch of regulation wins. That’s not right, they would shout! We must make sure that this never happens.
So this is how ROW came about. Any league needs a tiebreaker for a team tied in the standings, so the NHL decided to give wins gained in regulation and overtime more legitimacy than shootout wins. And the ROW was born to decided tiebreakers.
Examples of ROW in the standings
In these hypothetical standings, you can see that I have added 4 teams into the equation. They are occupying positions 6 through 9 of the conference standings with only the top 8 making the standings.
The Chicago Blackhawks and the Dallas Stars have the same record, but the Hawks have more ROWs. This means that of the 43 games that they won, they won 42 of them in regulation time or overtime and one in a shootout. Whereas, of the 43 games that the Stars won, they won 40 in regulation or overtime and three in the shootout. Both have 93 points at the end of the season, but since the Hawks had more ROWs they get a higher position in the standings.
The same goes with the Avalanche and Oilers. Both have the same number of points, 90, in the standings, but since the Avalanche won 6 more games in regulation plus overtime than the Oilers they get the tiebreaker. In this scenario, it is a very big deal because only the top 8 teams make the playoffs, and this will make the Oilers the 9th team so they will miss the playoffs!
What if teams are tied in ROW?
If teams are tied in ROW then the following tiebreakers will be applied in order:
- The team that has secured the most points in head-to-head games against each other. If there is an odd amount of games applied the first game played at the arena where there were more home games will not count.
- The greater differential between goals scored for and goals scored against for the entire regular season