Imrem: Who can make sense of NHL's overtime point system?

  • Goalie Corey Crawford and the Blackhawks got the coveted 2 points Sunday by defeating the Penguins 2-1 in a shootout victory at the United Center.

    Goalie Corey Crawford and the Blackhawks got the coveted 2 points Sunday by defeating the Penguins 2-1 in a shootout victory at the United Center. Associated Press

Updated 2/15/2015 7:34 PM

The Blackhawks beat the Penguins 2-1 in a shootout Sunday, raising a familiar question.

Why can't anyone explain the NHL's overtime point system in a way that makes sense.


People try. Commissioner Gary Bettman tries. Hockey commentators try. A lot of other alleged experts try.

The words all comes out sounding like gibberish.

It's like trying to make a Martian understand why the league that wins baseball's All-Star Game gets homefield advantage in the World Series.

In the end the response always is, oh yeah, huh?

The team that wins a regular-season NHL game in overtime or a shootout earns 2 points, the standard number for any NHL victory.

That figures.

The team that loses in overtime or a shootout earns 1 point, the standard number for what used to be an NHL tie game before ties were eliminated.

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Go figure.

If the same system were in place for the playoffs, they might have to adjust a series to best-of-7½.

Thank goodness postseason OT is played like regulation until one team wins and the other loses.

On this day the Hawks and Penguins were tied at 1-1 at the end of the regulation 60 minutes, but the game didn't end that way.

The Hawks won in a shootout. The Penguins lost. That's how it's accurately reported: Hawks beat Penguins.

So why did the Penguins receive anything like a consolation prize or parting gift?

This system resembles youth sports where every kid gets to play and then, win or lose, every kid is awarded something like a ribbon or trophy or ice cream.

But this is professional sports. You shouldn't get something just for showing up for the overtime.

Being old-fashioned, I never understood what was wrong with an NHL game ending in a tie anyway.


Not all ties are created equal. If a team ties on the road, that's like a victory or if it ties one of the league's best teams that's also like a victory.

Not every game in every sport on every night should have to have a winner and a loser on the scoreboard, because a tie might be a victory or defeat depending on the strategy, standings and circumstances.

OK, that might not make sense either, but it's what the NHL does to people.

The NHL couldn't live any longer with the ties that it lived with for eight decades. It had to have a winner … though not really a loser.

The league must believe that two winners are better than one on any given night.

The Penguins would have liked to steal 2 points against the Hawks, but they couldn't be terribly disappointed about getting out of the United Center with 1.

Each one of the Pittsburgh kids could text his grandparents with the news that they were celebrating a loss.

Meanwhile, the Hawks were twice as happy that they added 2 points to their total in the tight NHL Central race.

"The shootout was fun to watch," Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville said.

The shootout was fun to watch. Of the six attempts, three for each team, five went into the net.

Shootouts aren't necessarily the best way to break a tie, but they are entertaining.

But wouldn't they be more entertaining if the loser left with an empty feeling?

"I was excited to have the chance to win it," said Patrick Sharp, who netted the winner.

So the Hawks earned their 2 points fair and square.

The Penguins, oh, they left with a point of their own for some reason hard to explain.

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