Sometimes, Penguins wingers have their breakout NHL season solely thanks to time on Sidney Crosby’s wing. Rodrigues doesn’t appear to be one of them.
On Saturday night, Rodrigues skated alongside Sidney Crosby for the 15th time this season.
It’s easy to guess that Rodrigues’ breakout NHL season— 37 games in, and he’s already eclipsed his career-high points total of 29— came thanks to this time alongside Crosby. In fact, just five of Rodrigues’ 30 points in 2021-22 have involved the Penguins captain.
This latest opportunity on the first line, offered to Rodrigues after Bryan Rust joined the Penguins’ COVID-19 protocol list four games ago, seemed well-deserved given his performance through the season so far; heading into Saturday, with 23 points at even strength through 36 games, Rodrigues trailed only Jake Guentzel (27 points) for the team lead in 5v5 production.
10/12-10/28: 7 games; at EV, 2 goals, 2 assists; 16:44 ATOI; usual linemates: Jason Zucker, Kasperi Kapanen
10/30, Rodrigues joins Crosby for the first time: Crosby made his season debut after recovering from offseason wrist surgery, and with Bryan Rust out week-to-week with a lower body injury, Rodrigues was bumped up to the first line. He skated 12:22 alongside Crosby at 5v5, during which the line didn’t score, and was on the ice for one goal against.
Rodrigues then returned as second-line center in the absence of Evgeni Malkin.
11/4-11/24: 11 games; at EV, 4 goals, 5 assists; 15:15 ATOI; usual linemates: Jason Zucker, Kasperi Kapanen
11/26-12/19, Rodrigues spends 11 games on the first line: After Rust is a last-minute scratch against the Islanders on November 26, Rodrigues was called up just before game time to play on Crosby’s wing. While on the ice at 5v5, the first line scored eight goals and were on the ice for four against, averaging a dominant 61.33 CF%; Rodrigues was credited with six 5v5 assists.
1/2-1/6: 3 games; at EV, 3 goals, 1 assist; 17:15 ATOI; usual linemates: Danton Heinen, Kasperi Kapanen
1/8-1/15, Rodrigues rejoins the first line and goes blank: With red-hot Rust gone again, the Crosby line hasn’t been its usual self: according to Natural Stat Trick, through three games at even strength, the trio scored one goal and allowed one against while on the ice, far from its usual dominant ratio. Rodrigues has now been held off the scoreboard for four games.
In summation: through 37 games, Rodrigues put up 17 points (nine goals, 14 assists) at even strength and away from Crosby.
You’ve got to give him credit— those are impressive conditions under which to record your breakout NHL season in Pittsburgh.