The NY Islanders are piling up the loser points like no other team this season

New York Islanders v Washington Capitals
New York Islanders v Washington Capitals / Patrick Smith/GettyImages

In the NHL, it's the number of points, not the number of wins, that determines which teams reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The 1998-99 season was the last when a game could go into overtime, and one team could still skate off with a loss and without a point.

The OTL (Overtime Loss) was added the following year, and since then, whether a loss comes in overtime or a shootout, both teams are guaranteed a point if the game goes beyond sixty minutes.

The New York Islanders have played 32 games this season and technically have lost 17 of them, that's more than half. Yet, their record is 15-8-9, and they are tied for the third most points in the Eastern Conference and seventh-best points percentage (.609).

Last night in D.C. was their 12th game to go beyond regulation and the Islanders have won only three. Many of these games reached O.T. due to the Islanders' blown third periods. Games vs. Carolina, San Jose, and Toronto were all home games where the team had multi-goal leads or a lead in the final seconds but could not close out.

Of the previous nine "loser points," last night's 3-2 overtime loss was one of the better ones. The Isles didn't have their A or B game but hung close enough to give themselves a chance in the third period. Their final 20 minutes were their best, and Anders Lee's goal tied the game. The only other time the Isles tied a game in the third period and went on to lose in O.T. was vs. New Jersey on Oct. 20.

The nine shootout or overtime losses are the most through 32 games in team history. The previous high was seven in 2009-10; the nine this year matches their total all of last season. Back before there were OTLs, the team had 10 ties in 1973-74 and 1985-86 through 32 games.

You can choose to look at the loser points favorably or unfavorably, or maybe both. The Islanders have points in 16 of their last 18 games, which is pretty remarkable, but it's also hard to shake the sense of mediocrity with the number of games they have been unable to close out, along with their inability to pick up the coveted second point in overtime and the shootout.

At the end of the season, 50 games from now, you'll either be looking at the loser points or the team's inability to earn a second as the difference between making the playoffs or not.