Prescriptions for Game Four: Win It For Nicky Signs

Photo: Chris Gordon. Guy on TweetDeck: Adam Vingan

The Washington Capitals had only a 38% win percentage on the road this season, so getting the W Thursday night is crucial; they just can’t depend on victory away from Verizon Center. But Monday’s home loss to the Bruins was an ugly affair, and the once well composed team fell to shambles. To win Game Four, the Caps are gonna have to dig deep.

I have compiled a series of modest steps the Capitals should take to make it happen. And then we threw in the secret weapon. (Okay, we’ll tell you: more posters.)

For Alex Ovechkin: Shots > Hits

On November 13th, Alex Ovechkin said his job is “to score goals, not make the hits.” But through three games this postseason, Ovechkin has leveled 17 hits and scored just one goal. Your boy Neil Greenberg crunched the numbers and confirmed what Boudreau saidthe more Ovechkin hits, the less he scores.

Being physical is great, but the Ovi’s purpose should be obvious: SCOAR MOAR GOALS. This is a big stage for Ovi, so we’re looking for a another moment that gets people making this face:

Extracurriculars Gotta Go

The Boston Bruin know their game. Sure, they play physical between the whistles, but it’s the interim where they truly shine. Whether it’s Milan Lucic Game of Death-ing Brooks Laich before a faceoff, Milan Lucic ragdolling Nick Backstrom after the first period buzzer, or Milan Lucic biting Jeff Schultz’s brittany spaniel at the botanical gardens on Wednesday, its clear that they’ve got the edge when it comes non-hockey dickishness. The Capitals would be wise not to engage the Bs in their creeping.

They’ll win instead by being what Alan May called “thick and proud”–a tough and united team that finishes their checks and knows how to get gritty — but only during the course of the normal hockey game. But when Julien’s guys want to play the pest after every play, the Caps should be ascetic. Silent, focused, tough as nails. Just walk it off.

Roll the Roster Over

Finally found an excuse to post Erskine's dog

The Caps will be without star center and cross-checking phenom Nick Backstrom in Game Four, but that’s no reason to fret. NB19 played exactly none of the Caps’ three regular-season wins over the Bruins, so we know the guys can do it without him. But while Hunter is filling Nicky’s slot, maybe it’s time to shake the whole roster up.

I love Jeff Schultz and Dennis Wideman, but the dudes have been on ice for four of the six Bruins goals. Perhaps it’s time to give the rookie Dmitry Orlov his first taste of the playoffs. Or better yet, let’s get Big John Erskine in the lineup so he can give Looch what-for one more time.

In Backstrom’s place? You already know the answer. #FreeKnuble. Mike Knuble‘s experience, leadership, and cool head can only help a Caps team that may be frazzled after getting beaten up so ferociously last time. But putting him on the fourth line to grind it out does no one any good. Kanoobs is best deployed as a net-crashing compliment to a playmaker like Alex Ovechkin or Alex Semin.

Further down the lineup, Jeff Halpern may serve as another injection of experience in relief for either Keith Aucoin or Mathieu Perreault, who cannot match the Bruins in size and don’t have the elite faceoff chops of the former Caps captain. Plus: box check.

Defense First

Paille all alone with Holtby

The Capitals weak-sauce possession game has had me queasy since December, but it doesn’t matter anymore. Results are the only thing that mean anything now, and the Caps proved that a tight defensive game can win. It’s the kind of hockey Dale Hunter said he wanted to play since the day he arrived, and now he’s getting his chance.

But Monday was ugly. The Caps surrendered four goals– many of them due to poor defensive decisions. Justin Bourne at Backhand Shelf took the Caps defense (and Mathieu Perreault in particular) to task for blowing assignments, looking clueless, and generally making it easy for Boston to get at Holtby’s net.

To win on Thursday, the Caps must recommit to defense. They’ve gotta stick to JJ’s plan and execute without the slightest deviation. If they can keep the Bruins cadre of 20-goal scorers off the boards for another game, they can steal this series.

About the penalty kill? Shh. No jinxing.

Win It For Nicky

And finally, the emotional dimension. The Capitals survived without Nick Backstrom for a huge chunk of the season, and they’re gonna have to do it again on Thursday as Backstrom serves a one-game suspension for cross-checking Rich Peverley after Game Three.

The Caps should remain cognizant of their loss and use it as fuel to perform. Just as the Caps sans Alex Ovechkin summoned a hat trick out of Mathieu Perreault against Boston, so too should their role-players emerge as goal-scorers in Game Four. The team has been wronged, aggrieved by a feckless foe, deprived of their glory. Now they must be righteous and indignant. That’s their fuel.

They’ve gotta win this one for Nicky. They don’t even need us fans antagonizing Tim Thomas this time around, they just need a united front for Our Team.

Pursuant to that goal, blog maestro Ian Oland has cooked up some crucial posters.

Same deal as always. The links below will download PDFs, which will fit snug on a 8.5″ x 11″ page. Take a reasonable amount to Chinatown, hand some out to strangers, and then camp out in front of the glass during warm-ups. Let the boys know who they’re fighting for.

RMNB’s Free Nicky Signs

Download Download

If that doesn’t work, you can always go to Kinkos and print out a giant seagull head. That’ll really creep out Seguin.

Crash the net.

Posters by Ian Oland.

  • The mugshot sign is a thing of immense and moving beauty. I can feel the angst…and the defiance.

  • Guestz

    I truly wish DH would utilize Orlov, Erskine, and Halpern.  Hamrsuck is only proving his worth by blocking shots (save for the deflection), and he even beat someone for an icing last game which I could barely believe.  But why the hell is Laich taking so many face-offs when he just sucks so bad at them?!

  • Dark Stranger

    1) Knuble in — agree.  (He should have been there instead of Aucoin in the first place)

    2) While Perreault did screw up on one of the goals in Game 3, it still makes more sense to leave him in than take him out.  He fits better with Backstrom’s most recent line mates than any one else.  Do we really want our centers to be Laich, Halpern, Beagle, and Hendricks (unless Johansson moves there from wing)?  Answer — No.

    3) Defense — time to change the bottom pairing.

  • Pingback: DMV: Jabar Gaffney Is Long Gone | Mr. Irrelevant, a D.C. Sports Blog by the Brothers Mottram()

  • serpent

    Fantastic work, Peter, Ian.Great post, great posters. Erskine’s pup is so adorable!

  • Michele

    In Italy, getting pooped on by a bird is a sign of good luck.  Guess that’s where he was coming from 🙂

  • Concerned fan

    While Widesey was on the ice for the goals, his partner is far too high risk due to his slow speed and refusal to hit anyone.  It’s immoral for any D to not hit, but when his size, it’s downright stealing Ted’s money.  Without Erskine in there, there is no pain involved in going to the net for the bigger Bruins’ [or anyone else, for that matter].

    So dress Orlov to reduce risk on a pairing with Schultz and find a way to put Erskine in, that is, if he really is healthy.   At least Orlov hits people and can skate.  Erskine for Hamrlik maybe, tough call for Coach.  The easy call is to sit #55.

    Knuble for Aucoin, absolutely.  Thought Aucoin has been invisible.

  • For the record I cannot spell the word “more” correctly anymoar….thanks RMNB.


  • Great, but please, please, spell Rich PeverlEy right. PLEASE.

  • glad to help

  • Sam Wolk

    HAHAHAHAHA I love the tear drop tattoo.  Makes it great.

  • It’s only really good luck if it’s on his face. Seriously. 🙂

  • KareeLyn

    I like Aucoin as much as the next person, but if I didn’t know, I wouldn’t have even thought he was playing.  I can’t remember a single shift of his. Preaching to the choir here, but sweet heavens above, #FreeKnuble!  Also, your Photoshop skills are a thing of beauty.

  • Rasweeney

    Looks like someone’s listening.  According to (, it will be Knubes taking Nicky’s roster spot and Schultz will be in the press box to give Erskine a shot at the Bs.

  • This blog wields unimaginable power.

  • depeloubet


  • brian!

     Use it wisely!

  • Exactly one year ago, in Rome – I got pigeon-bombed on Spagna, then within 24 hours got a huge speeding ticket and missed my flight home.  Hope Seguin’s luck is similar 🙂

  • Rhino40

    –More dives than The Hunt For Red October…–More dives than an entire city full of cheap, trashy bars…–More dives than an old Esther Williams/Busby Berkley film…

    Ladies and Gentlemen, the Oscar goes to…(drumroll)

    Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins!!

    “I want to thank my family, teammates, coaches, my enormous
    beak-like nose, and the entire Bruins organization for making it possible
    for me to win this award. A special shout-out to Gary Bettman and Brendan Shanahan
    at the NHL offices.  I want to thank Tim Thomas, whose courage of his
    convictions and self-sacrifice ensured that I would not be regarded as
    the biggest d-bag on the team.  Finally, I also want to express special
    thanks to my hideously ugly, freakishly enormous, close personal friend Zdeno Chara:
    without his encouragement and support I would never have gotten away
    with half the bullshit moves I pulled on the ice…”


  • Guestzs

    RMNB knows best.

  • Poo Daniels
  • Goosegoose35

    Here is a way the caps can win: Stop bitching and play hockey. Keep Wideman on the bench, tell Ovi to stop hitting, and start shooting. When Corvo is on the ice, forecheck the crap out of him he will cough up the puck (See keep Wideman off the ice argument) and most of all, Do not try to play physical like the Bruins. Speed is the way to beat their aggressiveness. How do I know all this? I am a huge caps fan and a naturally born Bruins fan. The Bruins have not been gooning their way to wins. Look around the league. The Bruins skate that fine line, yes. During the season they cross the line often, Yes. But come playoff time, They play hard but do not go after people. The teams who gave the Bruins trouble are the fast counter attacking teams (Montreal, Tampa Bay, Vancouver).

    Oh to solve Tim Thomas, Do not wear Obama masks, do not taunt him. That shit makes him play better. Take advantage of his aggressiveness. Shoot the puck wide, have it wrap around the back of the goal and then shoot at an empty net (see Lapierre’s goal game 5 of the 11′ Cups finals).

    Finally. On Marshmonts diving. This sickens me. I love the kid but he’s loosing my respect. Claude called him out and I hope it stops. It’s not the Bruins style, this is Montreal and Vancouver and Tampa Bay hockey. Gross. Good luck fellow Cap fans. I can’t say I am rooting for them this series obviously, but good luck all the same.

  • Thanks for the comment. Corvo, to my infinite furiosity, has been getting rid of the puck FAST this series. He’s actually playing decent hockey, and I’m terrified by it.

    He might even Joe Scorvo. God help us.

  • Goosegoose35

     Well Corvo’s minutes were killed in game 3. He had just 12. He had 20 and some change in game 2 but that was 4 full periods. Maybe you think he is playing well, but I worry. He is like Kaberle and Wideman before him… Also anytime there is a “cheap” pennalty called, have no fear, the Bruins point man is Peverly. we had a 5 minute 5 on 3 this year and we scored 0 goals. Our PP is so so so so so so so so bad. I would argue the PP will favor the caps this game. 3 to 1 ration in penalties. Should be a good game.

  • wabbitt3730

    Win it for Nicky signs? Yeah, because those Obama signs worked SO well the other day. Maybe if he didn’t high stick a guy in the face after the final buzzer the doucher would be playing in game 4.

  • wabbitt3730

    That’s not a tattoo – he’s crying like the enormous girl that he is.

  • crankycrankypants

    just saw them show Free Nicky on TV!

  • Guestzs

    Your signs are EVERYWHERE! great job RMNB!