Former Avalanche Winger Starring In Stanley Cup Final

Colorado Hockey Now

We see it every single year. When the Stanley Cup Final rolls around, it’s not always the superstars that play the role of hero, but rather the role players throughout the lineups that get the job done. Andre Burakovsky was the hero for the Avalanche back in Game One in 2022, and through two games this year, it’s an old friend getting the job done for the Florida Panthers.

Evan Rodrigues, who left as a free agent over the summer, has three of the seven goals the Panthers have scored in the Stanley Cup Final. In Game One, he scored the all-important insurance goal in the second period after the Oilers left him all alone in the slot. In Game Two, he played an even bigger role.

Three minutes into the third period, Rodrigues was handed the puck by Evan Bouchard of the Oilers. I know us Evan’s have to stick together, but that’s not what I had in mind. Rodrigues stepped into his shot and beat Stuart Skinner high on the short side, giving the Panthers the lead. About 10 minutes later, after Leon Draisaitl took Sasha Barkov out of the game with a questionable high hit, Rodrigues delivered again, tipping in a pass near the front of the net to give the Panthers the two goal lead. Florida went on to win 4-1 and has a stranglehold on the series.

“It’s special,” Rodrigues said to Florida Hockey Now. “I’m just trying to embrace it and stay in the moment. It’s two big wins for our team and I think we’ve already turned the page and we’re getting ready for Game 3.”

Like I said, it’s not always the stars that get the job done in the Stanley Cup Final. Connor McDavid has zero goals. Leon Draisaitl has a pretty dirty hit under his belt, but zero goals and zero points. Even Matthew Tkachuk has been quiet, and hasn’t picked up a point in four games. Guys like Rodrigues are important. He’s a streaky guy, and Avalanche fans know that, but when he gets hot, he really gets hot.

Last season, he had some long slumps, followed by some hot streaks. That’s been the case for his entire career. I’m sure he’ll cool down again, but inside of a series, a small hot streak can make a huge difference to any team. Even when he’s not scoring, Rodrigues is a valuable player. He can play on any line, helps drive possession, and can be trusted at any moment inside of a game. Did you notice who got moved to the top line in the third period to give the team a spark? That would be E-Rod.

I’ve already belabored the fact that I think the Avalanche lost a good one here, so I won’t keep going down that road, but Rodrigues is a great guy. He was always willing to talk, and his teammates loved him. I’m sure a lot of them are rooting for him to get the job done.

Now, he’s just two wins away from a Stanley Cup ring.

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