Tuesday, April 23, 2013

All Victories Not Created Equal

Most hockey fans have come around to accept the shootout as the way to decide NHL regular season games. Sure, you could argue its a flawed way of deciding a hockey game, but it certainly beats leaving a game undecided.

While on the surface, a shootout victory appears to carry the same weight as winning a game in regulation or overtime, there is a caveat to those two points and fans in Calgary and Columbus -- ironically, could very well be negatively impacted this week by this so-called 'Howson rule'.

Three years ago, then Blue Jackets' General Manager Scott Howson, who was recently named senior VP of Hockey Operations for the Edmonton Oilers, introduced a rule change to the NHL Board of Governors. Intended to lessen the impact of shootout victories deemed fluky by many, the proposal immediately adopted was an NHL rule change making regulation plus overtime victories the number one tie-breaker if teams finish tied in the standings.

Now you know the history and importance of the 'ROW' (regulation/overtime wins) column when you view the NHL standings.

When ROW Wins Are Not So Good

It's been over 14 months since the Calgary Flames last won a 'skills contest', having lost their last eight shootouts since beating Vancouver on Feb. 11, 2012. This year, Calgary and Carolina are the lone two teams without a shootout victory.

If the Flames were in a hunt for a playoff spot, the 'Howson rule' would be very beneficial as their prowess in winning games prior to a shootout gives them the tie-breaker over any teams near them in the standings.

However, for a team preferring to be closer to No. 30 at this point to have a better draft spot and better perecentage in the draft lottery, this rule could end up costing them two or three draft slots.

Meanwhile, Columbus -- in a dogfight with Minnesota, Dallas and Detroit for the final two playoff spots in the West, has the fewest ROW wins meaning they need to be ahead in points of two of those teams as they lose the tie-breaker with all three of them.

Calgary's 44 Points Conundrum

Looking at their remaining schedule, it's very conceivable that New Jersey (vs Mtl, vs Pit, at NYR) and Buffalo (at Pit, vs NYI) will lose their final games in regulation and finish at 44 points. With a single 'loser point' in its next three games, Philadelphia (vs Bos, vs NYI, at Ott) could end up at 44 points too. 

Enter Calgary, currently at 42 points. It would not be a shock if the Flames beat the reeling Predators in Nashville tonight then finished off with losses in their back-to-back games in St. Louis and Chicago. If that scenario unfolded, that's three or four teams all tied at 44 points with Calgary rising to the top, or more so, seeing its first round draft pick drift further and further away from No. 1.

For the Flames, if they win Wednesday night, they may as well run the table then and head into the summer in style because the draft damage will likely have already been done.

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