Red Wings Out-of-Sync in Game 1 Versus Sharks

The best team won Friday night when the San Jose Sharks defeated the Red Wings, 2-1, on Benn Ferriero’s overtime goal in the first round of the Western Conference semi-finals. The best team, at least for one game.

This is not to say the Sharks will win the best-of-seven series, although it’s possible they will repeat their success of last spring and move on to the third round.

They looked more focused and grittier than the Wings, who were as rusted as they were rested after eight days off while the Sharks were eliminating Los Angeles.

“Beat Dee-TROIT!’’ chanted the fans in Northern California. “Beat Dee-TROIT!’’

The Sharks played with more snarl. You could see it in the snow shower from the skates of San Jose’s Joe Pavelski into the face of Wings’ goalie Jimmy Howard after a whistle when he stopped the puck in his crease.

You could sense it in the way San Jose fought for puck possession along the boards, particularly in the attack zone. You could feel it when the Sharks used the hockey equivalent of a full-court press to try to keep the Wings from bringing the puck up the ice.

The Sharks know they cannot skate or pass with the elegant Wings if play opens up and the game evolves into a match of skill. So their best chance to win is with tenacity and they certainly displayed it Friday night.

Although Detroit was bolstered by the return from injury of Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen, the Wings looked a little out of sync. You could blame it partly on the layoff and partly on the style of the opposition.

But you also have to wonder about their staying power and if the Sharks will grind them down. The most rugged Wings’ forward (aside from Tomas Holmstrom) is Todd Bertuzzi and, on some shifts, Bertuzzi is as much a liability as he is a help.

The man lacks puck skills and his straight-backed, upright style of skating yields less for his effort than it would from a crouching stance. But you’re not going to get a veteran to change such things at this stage of his career.

He does bring toughness but when the only roughing penalty against your team is against the goalie (as it was against Howard on Friday) it is a sign that the skaters are being out-muscled.

Game 2 starts on Sunday at noon, Pacific Time. It will be interesting to see if either team comes out flat at that odd hour. Should the Wings fall again in the same manner, it could be a long flight home and a short series.