Apologizing to Flamestr for kind of ripping off his blog title. Think of this as a sort of point/counterpoint thing.
On the strength of three consecutive second period powerplay goals, the Oilers beat the Flames 4-3 tonight in the first Battle of Alberta of the season. Aside from the powerplays alone, the Flames were generally dominated, being outshot 35-29 and being outchanced for the most part. The Flames also had problems with puck control and, as usual, their own powerplay. The only positive result, perhaps, was the fact that Miikka Kiprusoff couldn't really be blamed for anything. The Flames remain a frustrating, generally unimpressive team, and this sets up tomorrow's rematch - and perhaps the next few games next week - as early "big" games for the Flames.
The Oilers look substantially faster than the Flames, just as the Canucks and Avalanche have as well. While the Oilers are probably the fastest and most impressive looking team in the Northwest, the Flames are the exact opposite.
Although he let in four goals, tonight's game was by far Miikka Kiprusoff's best performance yet. He made some very good saves in the first period. None of the goals he let in - two tip ins, a powerplay bomb from Lubomir Visnovsky, and an uncovered rebound on the powerplay - were his fault. It is a shame the Flames had to throw away this game with so many penalties, because losing this game can't do anything for Kipper's confidence. According to Roger Millions, Keenan has hinted that Curtis McElhinney might start tomorrow's rematch in Edmonton. I think this would be a good idea.
Todd Bertuzzi scored his fourth goal in four games, and really this was his first "real" goal if you ask me (his first three - a random tip-in, a goal that was directly the fault of Peter Budaj, and a terrible rebound from Budaj). But his powerplay goal, which closed the gap to 4-3, demonstrated some great hands and he really looked like vintage Bert. Though his first three goals were a fluke, I don't think Bert as a viable top six forward is a fluke, if that makes sense.
So that's what I consider the good signs, here are the bad signs.
I have absolutely no faith in the powerplay, and will not unless a new coach is hired to manage it. The penalty kill looks just mediocre as well. One of the most important keys to the offense, Matthew Lombardi, is still useless in that regard (through four games: 1 assist, 3 shots, -1). The offence is unimpressive and mediocre statistically. Through a combination of mediocre goaltending and bad defence, the Flames are tied with Nashville for most goals against. None of these bad signs have shown any sign of turning around.
You could make an argument that this was just a lazy game with a lot of penalties. Perhaps tomorrow's rematch will show whether the penalty parade was due to the Flames being unable to keep up with Edmonton, or whether it was just laziness. After that game, the Flames have a tough home date with Washington, a game against Phoenix (looking like a potential playoff team), and then the mediocre looking Preds. There's only so long you can excuse things as a "slow start"; Chicago fired Denis Savard after three games for a reason. My overall first week impression is that the heat should be increasing on Mike Keenan by the game. Given the way they've played, I'd be surprised if there wasn't serious talk about it by the end of next week. While I agree with Flamestr that there is no need to panic right now, I honestly can't put this down to a mere "slow start" or lack of work ethic.