Divisions are used in the NHL to bucket teams into regional groups, simplify scheduling, and reduce travel. The league is split into two conferences, the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference, with each having two divisions within. The Atlantic Division and the Metropolitan Division are part of the Eastern Conference, while the Central Division and the Pacific Division belong to the Western Conference. There are eight teams in each division, for a total of 32 teams in the NHL.
The top three teams in each division advance automatically to the playoffs, with the remaining wild card teams in each conference filling the other four spots based on their regular-season standings. The winners of each division then go on to face-off in the conference semifinals, and the winners of the conference semifinals move on to play in the the conference finals. After that, the winners of each conference finals advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.
NHL standings are based on points, which factors in the wins, losses, and overtime losses a team has accumulated during the regular season. Teams are awarded two points for a win, one point for an overtime loss (including shootout losses), and no points for a regulation time loss.
The tie-breaking formula for the purpose of team standings is "ROW", which stands for Regulation plus Overtime Wins. This stat gives more weighting to those who win in regular time and overtime, and less to those who win in a shootout. This is used as a tie-breaker to those who otherwise have the exact same number of points in standings.