Let’s Talk Tie-Breakers

The Western Conference playoff race is packed tighter than a clown car right now. It’s extremely possible that Calgary could end up tied in points with the other teams in the race. That would push things to the NHL’s standings tie-breakers.

Let’s check out where the Flames sit in regards to those tiebreakers.


From the NHL website:

  • 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.


Calgary & Winnipeg: The Flames have 39 regulation/OT wins, the Jets have 34. The gap is larger than the number of games remaining, so Calgary is guaranteed to win this tie-breaker.

Calgary & Los Angeles: The Flames have 39 regulation/OT wins, the Kings have 37. Each team has 3 games left. Calgary holds the tie-breaker now, but is not guaranteed to (yet).


There is an uneven number of games in each season series – Calgary/Winnipeg and Calgary/Los Angeles – so the team with the extra home game has that first game not count for tie-breakers. (So both Winnipeg and Los Angeles have their first game drop off.)

Calgary & Winnipeg: Calgary won the first game in regulation and have 2 of a possible 4 points (with the last game of the season pending). This tie-breaker won’t be necessary, but the Flames have at least a tie here – if Winnipeg wins in regulation on Saturday, they get a tie. Again, though, this won’t come into play.

Calgary & Los Angeles: Calgary has 4 of a possible 6 points (by virtue of a regulation win, an overtime win and a regulation loss). Los Angeles has 3 of a possible 6 points (by virtue of a regulation loss, an overtime loss and a regulation win). This tie-breaker will come down, most likely, to the final game on Thursday between the two teams.

  • A Flames regulation or overtime win gives Calgary the outright win in this tie-breaker. (And also clinches the ROW tie-breaker from before.)
  • A Kings overtime or shootout win makes this category a tie and pushes everything to the next tie-breaker.
  • A Kings regulation win gives them the outright win in this tie-breaker.


The final tie-breaker is total goal differential.

Calgary & Winnipeg: Calgary has a +26 differential, Winnipeg has a +16 differential. But since Calgary has the ROW tie-breaker, it’s not relevant.

Calgary & Los Angeles: Calgary has a +26 differential, Los Angeles has a +16 differential.


    Flames vs.
    Flames vs.
    Los Angeles
    Magic Number 4
    (3.5 due to tie-breakers)
    Regulation and
    Overtime Wins
    Calgary 39,
    Winnipeg 33;
    Flames win
    Calgary 39,
    Los Angeles 37;
    Flames lead
    Flames lead 2-0**
    (a game remaining)
    Flames lead 4-3**
    (a game remaining)
    Goal Differential Calgary +26,
    Winnipeg +16;
    Flames lead
    Calgary +26,
    Los Angeles +16;
    Flames lead
    • Bean-counting cowboy

      Could be all kinds of wacky scenarios that could come about the last couple games. For example pulling a goalie to win in regulation as to not allow the other team a point; Pulling a goalie in overtime to get one more ROW to win that tie-breaker, etc.

      The Flames may end up needing to have their stat heads on the bench with Bob at some point!

    • Thanks Ryan..enlightening post!

      Playing the odds then:
      LAK will earn 4 points from EDM & SJS
      WPG will earn 3 points from COL & STL
      MIN will earn 2 points from CHI, NSH, STL

      Teams’ point totals will then be:
      MIN 96 + 2 = 98
      LAK 93 + 4 = 97
      WPG 94 + 3 = 97

      In this scenario CAL needs 97 points to use its tie-breakers to get in to the playoffs. This means the Flames MUST earn at least 4 points from ARI, LAK & WPG.

      GO Flames GO!!!

    • Greg

      The above scenario does NOT factor in any points that LAK or WPG earn against CAL, so the Flames will need to earn 5 points of a possible 6.

      Regarding the tie-breaker with LAK, they would likely need to sweep all 3 games to get to 40 ROW for them to win the tie with CAL. This would also mean the Flames would also earn 6 points but only 1 ROW + a couple shoot-out wins (non-ROW)

      Any way you cut it…one of the closest finishes to the regular season of all time! Great hockey..the NHL couldn’t have scripted it any better!

    • Greg

      Not sure if I followed that correctly, but is it as simple as:

      – flames win tie breaker against winnipeg no matter what (based on ROW)

      – flames probably win tie breaker against LA, unless
      A) LA ties (or beats) them for ROW (very unlikely)
      B) LA wins the head to head game (ties season series, possible)
      C) LA somehow erases the 10 goal differential lead Calgary has (very unlikely)

      Kinda like those odds 🙂

      Just gotta make sure we tie at least 1 of them.

    • mk

      Flames need to get the obvious win here: against Arizona. Winning vs. the Kings OR Jets is definitely a lot easier than winning vs. the Kings AND Jets.

      Finishing the season with 2 elimination-style games vs. the 2 teams you’re directly fighting with for a playoff spot? Exactly the perfect schedule to end the season (from a fan perspective). I’m sure the team would love to have clinched already, but I am DEFINITELY enjoying this ride.

      • Greg

        Absolutely. They’re just 2-3 points up on WPG, LAK and CAL; have the toughest schedule; and are 0-2-1 in their last 3 games.

        The biggest thing going for the Wild is NSH, STL or CHI may start resting key players this week before the playoffs start.

    • slapshot444

      just wait a minute here,,, you missed a big one,,, Flames vs Canucks
      we could easily tie. In which case we would have one or 2 more ROW..
      Optimism please!!!!

    • Erico

      you have the head to head points tie-breaker incorrect. the first game is excluded ONLY if the teams are tied in the season series, regardless of games played. ” 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.”

    • prendrefeu

      Imagine if San Jose, already eliminated from playoff contention, decides to get the ultimate revenge on the Kings from last year’s series by winning their game on Saturday by a score of 4-0, eliminating the Kings from the playoff standings.

      San Jose 4, Los Angeles 3 would also be quite funny.

    • Parallex

      Ideally we can can get the win vs. Arizona and the Kings… want that Pacific seed since IMO the Canucks are a better round 1 opponent for us. Don’t fancy having to face the Honda Centre or Rinne right out of the gates… but then again beggers can’t be choosers so GFG.