Just Win, Baby: How to Beat Three-Point Games


    The most common complaint I hear from fans, media and even some hockey people revolves around the point system and the three point game.

    Having done extensive point system analysis, alerted of a record shootout pace and declining overtimes, coupled with a scoring dip to the lowest goals-per-game average since prior to the lockout, a conclusion seems to come simple enough.

    In the era of three-point games, bemoaning the point system takes precedent over active solutions, other than the oversimplification of changing the system that seems ‘fair’ – more so on a team-by-team basis than for the league overall – without studying the effects of motivation to win games. It’s not about changing the system to make it ‘fairer’ it’s up to the teams to work within the system and make the most of opportunities while it’s actively implemented in the current NHL.

    There is a simple solution to minimize the effects of three-pointers that doesn’t require changes to the current structure.


    Win in regulation.

    Stop squandering late third period leads and stop making it easy for teams to come back tie games. Do whatever it takes to win in regulation and the point system rarely comes into play.

    How does one do that? Team management, doing their jobs to their best ability.

    Build a team that is defensively sound that can effectively protect a lead while handling blitzes for equalizing goals.
    Draft and develop well, use assets to compliment the notion of winning in regulation and fit them into lineups both for the economic benefit on top of team success.

    Draft and develop offensive talent and develop a strong forechecking game that allows a team to get up a goal or two, and overwhelm opponents with a stifling defense.

    It’s obviously not as easy as just saying it and that’s why they play the games. Make a mistake and your club is burned.

    In the end, forget the regulation season and the points systems.

    What good does it do for clubs to go into overtime in the playoffs? Why risk a goal to determine the fate of an overtime game? If teams are consistently blowing leads, allowing teams into games and crawl into overtime, how will that affect their playoff aspirations?

    Perhaps teams who can’t get the job done in regulation deserve to lose in overtime, both in regular seasons and postseasons.


    Including games from March 24, in 2009-10:

    Total Games Decided in Overtime Games: 96 (involving two teams = 192 games) OT winner got two full points, with 96 ‘extra points’ floating in standings.
    Total Shootout games: 159 (involving two teams = 318 games)
    Each shootout winner received full two points in a win, but an ‘extra’ point was awarded to 156 losers, for being tied after 60 minutes.

    Total Wins ShWOTWTotW-SORegulation Wins
    Van 45 3 2 42 40
    Was 49 5 5 44 39
    SJ 44 6 1 38 37
    Col 42 6 1 36 35
    NJD 43 6 2 37 35
    Cal 37 3 2 34 32
    Chi 46 8 6 38 32
    Nas 42 6 4 36 32
    Phi 37 3 2 34 32
    Ott 39 4 4 35 31
    Pit 42 7 4 35 31
    Buf 40 4 6 36 30
    Det 37 4 3 33 30
    LA 42 9 3 33 30
    NYR 32 2 1 30 29
    Pho 46 12 5 34 29
    Ana 34 4 3 30 27
    Min 35 4 4 31 27
    Atl 32 4 2 28 26
    Dal 32 5 2 27 25
    StL 34 7 2 27 25
    Cbs 28 2 3 26 23
    Bos 33 9 2 24 22
    Car 30 3 5 27 22
    Flo 30 6 2 24 22
    TB 29 2 5 27 22
    Mtl 36 7 8 29 21
    Tor 26 4 2 22 20
    Edm 24 7 0 17 17
    NYI 29 7 5 22 17

    Washington and Vancouver led the NHL with 39 regulation wins; San Jose 36, Colorado 35, and New Jersey 34, round out the top five NHL teams in regulation wins.

    The feel-good story of the season Phoenix Coyotes hover near the top of the Western Conference, yet place 15th in regulation time wins (29). The Desert Dogs won an NHL high 12 shootout games (only club in double digits) and five more in overtime for 17 extra time wins.

    Yet they are tied for second in rankings with 22 extra time games with Montreal and the NY Islanders. Boston leads the NHL with 23, while the Vancouver Canucks have played a league low nine extra time games – and rank first in their division by five points over their nearest opponent (Colorado) and double digits over the rest of the division.


    In the end, most complaints about how the point system fall on deaf ears regarding how they somehow altered the standings enough to warrant copious amounts of discouragement towards the system itself. It’s easy to point the finger at the point system and it’s structure, and the shootout. The easiest target gets the most attention.

    There is an big bonus in winning in 60 minutes.

    Win enough games in regulation, and it won’t matter how the point system is structured. The argument is always about the effect at the lower end of the playoff rankings, how these games affect the points standings and a potential playoff spot.

    Teams that limit going into extra frames and other teams fighting it out for a playoff spot being in involved in three-pointers mean less in the overall picture. Teams winning enough in regulation are unlikely to be involved in the logjam of standings bottom feeders and playoff races.

    The punishment, if one wants to look at it in another way, is to enter overtime and shootouts and be at the mercy of extra points filtering into the system. Want to outright beat the system?

    Then just win.

    katshockey [at] mapleleafshotstove.com