What Does OTL Mean in Hockey? A Guide to the NHL Standings

A group of people playing pond hockey.

Overtime in hockey is played as sudden death, meaning the first goal that’s scored ends the game. The winning team earns a win in the standings, and the losing team earns a point for an OTL.

But what does OTL mean in hockey?

OTL stands for an overtime loss and is a statistic tracked in the NHL standings. Since the 2005-06 season, when a game goes into overtime, both teams are awarded at least one point in the standings. The winning team receives two points for the win, and the losing team receives one point for the OTL.

In hockey, teams are awarded points throughout the regular season depending on the outcome of the games they play. At the end of the season, the amount of points a team amasses determines their eligibility for a playoff spot.

Generally, teams are awarded two points for a win and zero points for a loss. However, games that go into overtime are known as “three-point games” because a total of three points are awarded, two points for an overtime win, and one point for an overtime loss.

What Is Overtime in Hockey?

Overtime in hockey is an extra period played when two opposing teams are tied after 60 minutes of regulation time. Overtime is played as a sudden death period where the first team that scores is declared the winner of the game. 

The overtime period during the regular season is 5 minutes long and played 3-on-3. During the regular season, if overtime ends with no goals scored, the game will be decided in a shootout, where teams alternate taking penalty shots until a winner is determined.

Playoff overtime rules differ from the regular season in that overtime is 20 minutes long and is played 5-on-5 just as any other period. Additionally, in the playoffs, overtime is played continuously until a team scores, meaning there are no shootouts in the playoffs.

How Many Points Is an OTL in Hockey?

During the regular season, when a game goes to overtime, both teams are granted 1 point in the standings. When a winner is declared, either in overtime or the shootout, they receive two points in the standings.

The winning team is credited with a win in the standings. If the game is won in overtime the team will add to their Regulation and Overtime Win (ROW) total, or if the team wins in a shootout, the standings will reflect this in the Shootout Win (SOW) statistic column. The losing team keeps the 1 point in the standings for going into overtime and is credited with an Overtime Loss (OTL) in the standings.

During the playoffs, when overtimes are continuous, the losing team is still credited with an OTL, however, there are no points in the playoffs; just wins and losses. OTLs in the playoffs are thought to be especially de-moralizing by most players as they play over 60 minutes and end up with nothing to show for their effort.

What Is an SOL in Hockey?

In hockey, when the overtime period ends during the regular season the game goes into a shootout. A shootout is when teams select players to alternate taking penalty shots against the goalie until the game is won. The team that loses the shootout is credited with an SOL or shootout loss.

When a team loses in the shootout they receive one point in the NHL standings for forcing the game into overtime. The team that wins in the shootout is credited with an SOW, or shootout win and receives two points for winning the game.

NHL Point System

Two hockey players battling during a faceoff.

The NHL standings are determined by a point system unique to hockey. Most sports, and certainly all of the other major sports (football, baseball and basketball) standings only consider wins and losses for standings. However, in hockey, teams that lose games can improve their rank in the standings.

In the NHL, the winning team earns two points, regardless of if the game is won in regulation, overtime, or a shootout. The maximum number of points a team can earn by the season’s end is 164 (82 games x 2 points for each win).

However, this has never happened and will very likely never happen. Generally, teams strive for the 100-point milestone in a season, which is usually enough to get a team into the playoffs.

If a team loses the game in regulation, the team is awarded 0 points in the standings. However, if the teams are tied at the end of regulation, both teams automatically receive 1 point. The team that wins in overtime or the shootout receives an extra point (for a total of 2 points), and the team that loses settles for a single point.

While a team that wins in a shootout gets 2 points, just the same as any other win, a shootout win is not necessarily equal to a regulation or overtime win. This is because the NHL’s standard tie-breaking procedure at the end of the year rewards teams first with more regulation wins, then with more regulation and overtime wins.

Essentially this means that while a win is technically a win, and every win earns the team two points in the standings, regulation wins hold the most importance, followed by overtime wins, and then finally shootout wins from a tiebreaker standpoint.

How Do You Read the NHL Standings?

NHL standings can be tough to read with all the statistics tracked for each team. Essentially, the NHL standings provide the reader a snapshot of what teams are currently on track for a playoff berth (and what teams are not) and how teams show statistical comparisons against all the other teams in the league.

While many different statistics are tracked in the NHL standings, the most important stats are PTS (Points) and P% (Points Percentage). PTS determine the teams that are in the playoffs, and the more points a team has, the better the chances of that team making the playoffs.

It’s important to know that points aren’t always the only way into the playoffs, though. A total of 16 teams make the playoffs each year, eight from the Western Conference and eight from the Eastern Conference.

Each conference is subdivided into two divisions. The top 3 teams in each of the NHL’s four divisions are guaranteed a spot. The remaining four spots are known as “wildcard” spots and are given to the two teams in each conference with the most points, that didn’t finish in the top 3 of their respective division.

This means that a team could theoretically earn a playoff spot over another team with more points because they performed well in their division.

P% is a category that shows how well a team is performing compared to others when they have not played the same number of games. P% is shown as a decimal and represents the number of points a team has earned compared to the maximum number of points that team could have earned if they won all their games.

For example, if a team wins three out of four games to start the season, their P% would be .750; this means they’ve earned 75% of the total points they could have earned at that point in a season.

Other important statistics include GF (Goals For), GA (Goals Against), DIFF (goal differential (GF – GA)). Some of the statistics that show how well a team has performed recently include L10 (record over a team’s previous 10 games) and STRK (current winning, or losing, streak).

What Does TP Mean in Hockey?

TP in hockey stands for Total Points. Previously TP was a team stat category that tracked the number of total points a team has earned at any given time. TP is now displayed as PTS in the NHL’s standings which stands for points.

What Does GF Mean in Hockey?

A college hockey team in blue and white celebrates scoring a goal.

In the NHL standings, GF stands for Goals For and represents the total number of goals a team has scored at a single point in time throughout the season. Teams that score more goals are usually higher in the standings as the more goals a team scores the better its chances of winning hockey games.

However, GF should usually be looked at in conjunction with GA, or Goals Against. When the two stat categories are looked at separately it could be misleading as a team’s ability to win is determined by both its ability to score AND its ability to keep the puck out of their net.

The best stat category to look at when it comes to team goals is DIFF, which stands for Goal Differential. This stat can be displayed as a positive number or a negative number and is calculated by subtracting GA from GF. Teams with the best goal differential are usually found higher in the standings.

What Does STRK Mean in Hockey?

STRK stands for streak in the NHL standings and shows the current winning or losing streak for a team at a point in time. STRK is typically displayed by letters (W for win, L for loss, and OT for overtime or shootout loss) followed by a number of consecutive games that a team has had the same outcome.

It can be useful in determining how a team is playing in very short bursts. For example, a STRK of W5 indicates that a team has won their previous five games.

What Does ROW Mean in Hockey?

In the NHL standings, ROW stands for Regulation and Overtime Wins. Similar to RW (Regulation Wins) this stat shows the number of games a team has won in regulation or overtime. The ROW is the second tiebreaker to determine a team’s standings after RW if two or more teams are tied in points.

Because of this, while a team earns 2 points in the standings for a win, regardless if they win in regulation, overtime or a shootout when the year ends and the playoff teams are being determined, a regulation win is of the highest importance, followed by overtime, and lastly, a shootout win.


What Is the Current NHL Record for Team Points in a Season?

The current record for most team points in a season is held by the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens who finished the year with 132 points. Astonishingly, this record was set when teams played 80 games in a season, as opposed to the current 82 games.

The 76-77 Canadiens earned a .825 P%, meaning they earned 82.5% of the maximum number of points that season. Unsurprisingly, the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup that season.

The record for the fewest team points in a season belongs to the 1974-75 Washington Capitals, who finished the year with 21 points in their first season as an NHL franchise. The same Capitals team also holds the record for lowest P% in a season with .121 or 12.1% of the maximum points they could have earned.

What Is the Current NHL Record for Points Percentage in a Season?

The 1929-30 Boston Bruins hold the record for P% in a season with .875 or 87.5% of the maximum possible points. The Bruins went 38-5-1 that year finishing the season with 77 points. The Bruins were upset in the Stanley Cup Final that year by the Montreal Canadiens.

What Team Has the Record for Most Season Overtime Losses in History?

Currently, there are four teams tied for the most overtime losses in a single season. The 2014-15 Flyers, 2013-14 Devils, 2011-12 Panthers and 2008-09 Lightning each had 18 overtime losses in a single season.

What Team Has the Best Shootout Record in History?

The New York Islanders currently have the record for most Shootout wins in NHL history with 86, while the Colorado Avalanche currently holds the record for best Shootout Win % at .635.

What Is the Longest Winning Streak in NHL History?

In the 1992-93 season, the Pittsburgh Penguins won 17 games in a row from 3/9/1993 to 4/10/1993.

The 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers put together a streak of 35 straight games earning a point.

What Is the President’s Trophy in Hockey?

The President’s Trophy is awarded to the team that finishes the regular season with the most points. Since its inception in the 1985-86 season, the President’s Trophy winner has only won the Stanley Cup eight times, most recently in 2012-13 when the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Boston Bruins in six games to win the Cup.

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Steven G.

My name is Steven and I love everything sports! I created this website to share my passion with all of you. Enjoy!

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