If you are new to following the sport of hockey you may be finding all the terminology confusing. Now pair that with all the acronyms used in player statistics and standings and you may find yourself wondering what all of it means. That’s why this article is on hand to break down what OTL means in hockey.
OTL in hockey stands for overtime loss. In the NHL both overtime losses and shootout losses are counted in the OTL statistic. The reasoning for this is that both these losses would result in the losing team earning a single point.
Why Are OTLs Worth One Point?
Now that you know that OTL in hockey stands for overtime loss you may be wondering why teams earn a single point for losing a game after regulation. The answer to this question starts with the removal of the tie game from hockey.
Previously the NHL would end regular-season games with a single overtime period. If the period ended and neither team had scored both teams would go home with a single point from the tie.
The issue is that this led to teams intentionally playing conservatively in the overtime period. This way they could ensure that they would be going home with a point. This was harmful to the fans as overtime is meant to be an exciting part of the game, not a time to play conservatively.
In order to fix this issue, the NHL added shootouts. Now if two teams are tied at the end of the overtime period they will then go to a shootout. The winner of the shootout or overtime earns two points and the loser of the overtime/shootout will earn a single point.
This way both teams earn points if they are tied once the regulation time ends. Once the overtime starts these players will be more comfortable playing an aggressive style of hockey as they have already earned a point.
This makes the game more exciting for the fans at home especially since the NHL has changed the overtime rules so that there are only three skaters on each team.
Does It Matter If You Lose In Shootout Or In Overtime?
If you check out NHL.com you will notice you are still able to determine whether losses after regulation occurred during shootout or overtime. This begs the question does it matter if your team loses in a shootout vs overtime?
Many hockey fans would simply answer no to this question. Both losses would be worth one point in the standings but these losses can actually play a big role when it comes to tiebreakers.
Tiebreakers are used to decide a winner when multiple teams have the same number of points. The first tiebreaker in the NHL is number of games played, the second is the number of regulation wins and the third is the number of games won excluding shootouts.
This means if the tied teams have played the same number of games and have the same number of regulation wins it will come down to how many games you won in overtime versus shootout.
The team which won fewer games in shootout is going to be the team that wins the tiebreaker. Shootouts can be seen as a somewhat gimmicky way to win a hockey game which is why the NHL values overtime wins higher.
This may not seem like a big deal but once it comes to the end of the season and a tiebreaker is determining whether or not you get a playoff birth you might be singing a different tune.