The NHL regular season ends on Sunday, and the second wild card spot in the East currently belongs to the Flyers, who have one game left to play. The Panthers, with two to play, are four points back. But: what if they end up tied? And what if they also end up tied in every extant tiebreaker? It’s a realistic scenario, and someone in the league office appears to have just now noticed.
So here’s what they’re gonna do:
This is admittedly complicated, so let’s break it down. If the teams end up tied in points, the first tiebreaker is games won minus the shootout (regulation or overtime wins, or ROW). The second tiebreaker is the season series between the two teams—that’s currently tied. The third tiebreaker is goal differential. Until today, there were no more tiebreakers after that.
So, how do we get the standings, ROW, and goal differential tied up, so we can have our extra game? The Flyers would have to lose to the Rangers by exactly two goals on Saturday. And the Panthers would have to beat the Sabres on Saturday and the Bruins on Sunday, both in shootouts. This is extremely plausible.
And if it happens, Flyers fans would have a right to complain:
That detail—plus the whole creating an extra tiebreaking game only right before there’s a chance it might be needed thing—is classic NHL, which seems to do something roughly monthly to make it look like a fly-by-night outfit. That said: I hope this game happens. Bring on the chaos.
Correction: An earlier version of the post incorrectly said the Easten Confernce wild card was the only undecided playoff spot. The second wild card in the West is also still up for grabs.