If the Philadelphia Flyers and Florida Panthers are even in points, regulation and overtime wins, and goal differential at the end of the season, they will play a one-game tiebreaker to determine who goes to the playoffs.
The NHL announced the unlikely but possible tiebreaker Friday as Philadelphia had one game and Florida two remaining. For the tiebreaker to happen on Tuesday, the Flyers would need to lose their regular-season finale Saturday against the New York Rangers by exactly two goals and the Panthers would need to beat the Buffalo Sabres and the Boston Bruins in a shootout Saturday and Sunday.
In that case, Philadelphia and Florida would each have 39 regulation/overtime wins and a plus-1 goal differential over the season, since a shootout victory counts as a goal. The teams split their season series (which by rule eliminates the odd game between them to even out home ice) and the league does not have any further tiebreakers.
Philadelphia has 96 points to Florida’s 92 and needs just a point against New York to clinch the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
This most recently happened in 2000 when the NHL announced Montreal and Buffalo would play a tiebreaking game if they finished the season tied for the final spot in the East. It did not come down to that, but it’s the precedent the league used to make this decision.
The league contacted the teams and the NHL Players’ Association before announcing the plan. After a coin flip was the mechanism in 2000, a lottery machine such as the one that determines the top three draft picks would be used this time to decide which team gets home-ice advantage.
Panthers general manager Dale Tallon declined comment and a Flyers spokesman said GM Ron Hextall was not speaking about the tiebreaker.
Given the tightness of the standings in the East and West, it’s likely this situation spawns a longer list of tiebreakers beginning next season. Records against common opponents and within the conference could be used, as they are in the NFL.
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