The New York Islanders squeezed into the playoffs on Sunday. Under any normal circumstances I would not write about this mediocre achievement but it’s the way it was done that has this scribe’s mid-sized brain working overtime.
Specifically, the Islanders made the playoffs by winning in a shoot-out over the New Jersey Devils. It allowed them to prevail in a tight three-way battle with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens. While in principle I am no fan of the shoot-out, it is unfair to blame it all on the shoot-out. It all balances out in the end anyway. After all, just a few days earlier the Maple Leafs had destiny in their own hands when they played the Islanders and promptly lost 7-2. Same with the Canadiens, all they had to do was win one of their last two games and decided to show up flat in both. Bye-bye.
Still, is the new way of calculating points a fair one? If anything, sports fans should be questioning the NHL’s ridiculous egalitarian decision to award a point for an OT loss. Why doesn’t the NHL just give out “You’re swell” ribbons too?
To see where the new method becomes bizarre we need to break down the numbers. Here is how they finished in the standings:
New York 40-30-12 - 92 pts.
Toronto 40-31-11 - 91 pts
Montreal 42-34-6 - 90 pts.
So what you say? Let's compare these numbers to the past to see how the NHL way of calculating the points skews the reality. Quick history refresher before we go on: Up until the 1982-83 season, there was no OT - both sides got a point. The following 1983-84 season a five minute OT was introduced. Only if you finished the OT in a tie did you get the point.
Now you get a point just for reaching the OT. How nice! So your loss column is spared a loss. In this way the Islanders got seven “free” points, the Leafs four and the Habs one. As a result, I’m increasing the losses by these numbers.
So here’s how the records temporary look like at this point:
New York 40-37-5
Now, when you lose in a shoot-out your loss record is not affected. But you do get a win because you earn an extra point. Remember up until this point the game is a tie. You’re just trying to determine who will get that point. Here are the shoot-out records for each: