In this week’s installment of The Rundown, we take a look at the surging San Jose Sharks and the struggling San Francisco 49ers, who are actually favored—yes, favored—to win their next game. What kind of bizarro universe do we live in?
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
First, the good news. In acquiring quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the New England Patriots last week for a second-round draft pick, the 49ers have addressed the most important need on a roster that is devoid of talent. Forget for a moment that San Francisco is in the midst of its worst season in franchise history.
The future became instantaneously brighter with the trade for Garoppolo, who many experts consider a franchise-type player. The only question now is when will he take the field? Coach Kyle Shanahan has done a great job of keeping things in house—in recent years, the 49ers have had more leaks than the Titanic—so don’t expect any breaking news in regards to this matter.
The most likely scenario is Garoppolo playing—if not starting—the Nov. 26 home game against Seattle. That would leave him enough time to master the team’s playbook, get enough reps in practice and by that time hopefully have a healthier roster around him.
The 49ers lost five players to injury in Sunday’s 20-10 defeat to the Cardinals—in front of a half-empty Levi’s Stadium.
So, even amid all the hope of the Garoppolo acquisition, the 49ers remain in terrible shape with so many empty seats at Levi’s. For what it’s worth, San Francisco is favored—albeit by one point—in Sunday’s game against the equally woebegone 1-7 New York Giants.
SAN JOSE SHARKS
A four-game winning streak has vaulted the Sharks (16 points) into third place in the Pacific Division standings, behind only first-place Los Angeles and the Vegas Golden Knights. Chalk up San Jose’s improved play to its depth, as all four lines are coalescing despite the constant changes that take place throughout the season.
It’s always a great sign when players from the fourth line make an impact, and that’s exactly what happened in San Jose’s 2-1 shootout win over Anaheim on Saturday. Center Barclay Goodrow, who was playing just his second game of the season, set up linemate Joel Ward for a game-tying goal at 11:57 of the third period.
Goalie Martin Jones is showing flashes of the 2015-2016 season, when he led the team to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The NHL named Jones its third star of the week, as he posted a .938 save percentage in three of the Sharks’ last four victories.
Looking ahead, the Sharks have three games this week: at home against Tampa Bay (Wednesday) and Vancouver (Saturday), before hitting the road Sunday to Los Angeles. The big question: whom will the Sharks recall in the wake of Kevin Labanc’s demotion to the Barracuda?
SAN JOSE BARRACUDA
The Barracuda landed Labanc in time for Sunday’s 6-1 win over the Texas Stars. Teamed up on a line with Danny O’Regan and Marcus Sorenson, the trio combined for seven points, including a hat trick from Sorenson. The addition of Labanc could be short-lived, as the 21-year-old could get recalled by the parent club Sharks.
Other options include the Sharks calling up Sorenson or O’Regan, who have combined for nine goals and 10 assists in eight games this season. Who will stay and who will go? That’s always the big question when it comes to the Barracuda, who have proven that San Jose is fertile ground for producing NHL talent.