Understanding NHL Standings: A Comprehensive Guide for Hockey Fans

The National Hockey League (NHL) is a premier professional ice hockey league that captures the hearts of millions of fans around the world. With its fast-paced action and intense competition, keeping track of team performance is essential for any avid hockey enthusiast. One crucial aspect of following the NHL is understanding the standings and how they determine playoff qualification. In this comprehensive guide, we will break down the NHL standings, explain key terms, and shed light on how they impact the teams’ journey towards the playoffs.

The Basics of NHL Standings

The NHL standings serve as a visual representation of each team’s performance throughout the regular season. At a glance, fans can see where their favorite team ranks in their respective division and conference. The standings are divided into several categories, including points, wins, losses, overtime losses (OTL), regulation plus overtime wins (ROW), and goal differential.

Points are awarded based on game outcomes: two points for a win in regulation or overtime and one point for an overtime loss. Wins directly contribute to a team’s point total and play a crucial role in determining their position in the standings. Overtime losses also add to a team’s point total but have less impact on their overall ranking.

Divisional Standings

The NHL is comprised of four divisions: Atlantic Division, Metropolitan Division, Central Division, and Pacific Division. Each division consists of teams geographically grouped together for easier scheduling purposes. The divisional standings show how teams fare against their immediate rivals throughout the regular season.

In divisional standings, teams are ranked based on points earned within their divisional games first before considering points earned against non-divisional opponents. This emphasizes competition within divisions and adds extra excitement to games between traditional rivals.

Conference Standings

Conference standings provide an overview of each team’s performance relative to all other teams in their conference. The NHL has two conferences: the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. Each conference is further divided into two divisions, resulting in a total of 16 teams in the playoffs.

Conference standings are determined by a combination of points earned within the conference and points earned against non-conference opponents. This ensures that teams have a fair chance to qualify for the playoffs based on their performance against both conference rivals and teams from the opposing conference.

Playoff Qualification

The ultimate goal for every NHL team is to secure a spot in the playoffs, where they can compete for the prestigious Stanley Cup. Playoff qualification is based on a combination of divisional and conference standings.

At the end of the regular season, the top three teams from each division automatically qualify for the playoffs. Additionally, two wild card spots are awarded to each conference’s next highest-ranked teams based on total points earned regardless of division.

Once playoff positions are determined, teams compete through a series of best-of-seven games to advance to subsequent rounds until only one team remains as the Stanley Cup champion.


Understanding NHL standings is crucial for any hockey fan wanting to keep tabs on their favorite team’s journey towards playoff qualification. Whether tracking divisional rivalries or following your team’s progress within their respective conferences, knowledge of these standings enhances your overall hockey experience. So grab your jersey, cheer on your team, and let these standings guide you through an exhilarating NHL season.

This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.