The Washington Capitals introduced their throwback white jerseys in the NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic on New Year’s Night 2011 in Pittsburgh. It was a rousing success, the Caps defeating the Penguins, 3-1, on a rainy Heinz Field rink.
Three years later, the bloom is off the rose, so to speak. The Capitals, who have sought for some level of consistent winning performance for much of this season, certainly have not found it wearing the white echoes of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Here is their record when wearing their throwbacks:
- Tuesday, Dec. 17 - at Philadelphia Flyers: LOSS (2-5)
- Friday, Dec. 20 - at Carolina Hurricanes: WIN (4-2)
- Wednesday, Jan. 15 - at Pittsburgh Penguins: LOSS (3-4)
- Friday, Jan. 17 - at Columbus Blue Jackets: LOSS (1-5)
- Sunday, Jan. 19 - at New York Rangers: LOSS (1-4)
- Friday, Jan. 24 - at New Jersey Devils: LOSS (1-2)
- Saturday, Jan. 25 - at Montreal Canadiens: WIN (5-0)
- Tuesday, Jan. 28 - at Buffalo Sabres: WIN (5-4/OT)
- Thursday, Jan. 30 - at Columbus Blue Jackets: LOSS (2-5)
- Friday, Jan. 31 - at Detroit Red Wings: LOSS (3-4/SO)
- Saturday, Mar. 1 - at Boston Bruins: WIN (4-2)
- Wednesday, Mar. 5 - at Philadelphia Flyers: LOSS (4-5/OT)
- Thursday, Mar. 6 - at Boston Bruins: LOSS (0-3)
A 4-7-2 record, including last night’s loss in Boston, is not one that Caps fans might have hoped for in the alternate duds. “Duds” might have more than one meaning in this context.
You could say that since these are exclusively road uniforms (visiting teams wearing white in NHL games), and that the Caps are, like many NHL teams, not as good a team on the road as they are at home, that the Caps should not be expected to have a great record when donning the third jersey.
The thing is, though, while the Caps have that 4-7-2 record in the alternates, they are a respectable 8-8-3 in road games wearing their standard issue jersey. It has to be the jersey. Let us delve a bit deeper into the differences…
The offense is marginally better in the standard issue road jerseys than in the alternates (2.89 G/GM to 2.69 G/GM), this despite the fact that the power play is actually more efficient in the alternates (26.0 percent to 23.1 percent).
But oh, that defense and goaltending. The Caps allow more than half a goal a game more in the alternate roads (3.38) than they do in the standard issue whites (2.84), and this is reflected in poor penalty killing numbers in the throwbacks (76.9 percent versus 87.3 percent in the standard jerseys) and awful goaltending numbers, a GAA difference of two-thirds of a goal per 60 minutes and a save percentage difference of almost 20 points. Of the seven times that the Caps allowed five or more goals in road games this season, four of them have come wearing the alternates despite only 13 of 32 road games played in those jerseys.
Consider this as the remainder of the alternate jersey schedule comes up:
Tuesday, Mar. 11 - at Pittsburgh Penguins
Friday, Apr. 4 - at New Jersey Devils
Saturday, Apr. 5 - at New York Islanders
Looking at their road performance so far this season in their different ensembles, it might be true that “clothes make the man,” but when it comes to throwbacks… throw ‘em back. They’re not helping.