The Rundown: Brent Burns Lives; San Francisco 49ers Poised to Hand Keys to Jimmy Garoppolo

What a difference a week makes.

In this installment of The Rundown, we reflect on a cameo by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and why the improved play of San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns has the team primed to make a move up the Pacific Division standings.

SAN JOSE SHARKS

In last week’s Rundown, we took aim at the Sharks’ need to improve their power play—we may have also suggested putting out an APB on Burns. Last week’s performances, however, could be a harbinger of better things to come. On Wednesday, Burns recorded an assist against Arizona that ended an eight-game drought on points.

Two days later, the reigning Norris Trophy winner scored his first goal of the season in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. Burns also notched an assist in the Sharks’ 4-0 win over Winnipeg on Saturday. Sharks coach Pete DeBoer has maintained all season that Burns has been contributing in other facets of the game, and there was little cause for concern.

The victory over Winnipeg marked just the third time this season the Sharks scored power play goals in consecutive games. San Jose is finally showing signs of life with the man advantage—since Nov. 18, the Sharks are 3 for 11 on the power play. While that’s no reason to go bonkers, San Jose’s 27.3 percent clip during the last 10 days is tied for the NHL’s ninth-best mark.

Looking ahead, a major concern is the health of goalie Martin Jones, who left Saturday’s game with an apparent injury late in the third period. Aaron Dell has proved more than capable of spelling Jones from time to time, but we’ll have to see who’s in net long term.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

It took a C.J. Beathard injury late in Sunday’s 24-13 loss to Seattle for coach Kyle Shanahan to finally pull the trigger on Garoppolo, the team’s prized midseason acquisition. All the quarterback did was run for four yards before throwing a pair of completions, including a 10-yard touchdown pass to Louis Murphy as time expired.

Everything is set up for Garoppolo to start this week’s game at Chicago. Perhaps this was Shanahan’s plan all along? After all, why would the first-year 49ers coach risk Garoppolo to be a live punching bag, as Beathard was against the Seahawks? Shanahan has consistently said Garoppolo would only play once he is in a position to succeed. Sunday’s garbage time reps could help Garoppolo ease into the starting role.

Even though Shanahan says he wasn’t planning to call Garoppolo his starting quarterback against Chicago, it makes sense. Garoppolo’s hometown is Arlington Heights, a 30-minute drive from Chicago. The woebegone Bears are also coming off a 31-3 shellacking to the Eagles, meaning the 49ers will face a team they have a solid chance of beating.

SAN JOSE BARRAUCDA

The Barracuda (8-8-0-1) closed out last week with a 5-3 home win over the San Diego Gulls, the first of eight regular-season matchups with their neighbors to the south. A season-high 6,998 fans showed up at SAP Center to enjoy the inaugural Pucks and Paws night.

Barracuda goalie Antoine Bibeau recorded the win with 14 saves on 17 shots. Adam Helewka scored two goals for the Barracuda, who won’t play again until a Sunday tilt in Bakersfield.