Why Jonathan Drouin didn't play the final three minutes Tuesday
Much has been made about how wing Jonathan Drouin didn't play the final three minutes of Tuesday's 4-3 loss to the Bruins, including when the Lightning had the extra attacker trying to tie the game.
It was surprising that Drouin, who has been one of Tampa Bay's most productive and dynamic players this season, remained on the bench late in a must-win game.
Drouin said there wasn't any communication from coaches as to why.
"It sucks," Drouin said. "When you're down one goal in such an important game, staying on the bench definitely sucks. I don't make coach's decisions. He does. It's up to him."
But coach Jon Cooper downplayed Drouin's lack of ice time down the stretch, indicating it's not a punishment or any sign of an issue between the two. Cooper said Drouin has been on the ice late in games before (like protecting a one-goal lead in Los Angeles a couple weeks ago). And Drouin will be there again in 6-on-5. "He puts up points and is a points producer," Cooper said.
But Cooper often goes with guys he feels are "on," or having a good game. Alex Killorn, who had two goals, was out there. Cooper said some were there for situational purposes, like wanting Gabriel Dumont on the ice to win a faceoff. Dumont did beat Patrice Bergeron on a draw, leading to Bradyen Point's goal. Cooper liked defenseman Jake Dotchin's right shot, and the rookie got an assist.
After that group scored with 2:04 left, Cooper wanted to go with them again.
"It should never be looked at who isn't on the ice, it should be who was and why they were out there," Cooper said. "In past situations, we've had different guys out there because they earned the right to be out there. If Player A is having a really good game, there's a good chance he might be out there in the end. If Player B is not playing so well or is not 'on,' that particular night, he might not get out there. Coincidentally, we scored. And so we kept going back with those guys and unfortunately we couldn't score (two)."
Drouin finished a minus-1 with zero shots on goal in 15:19. He was on the ice for the Bruins go-ahead 4-on-4 goal with .9 seconds left in the second, but he wasn't the only one. So was Valtteri Filppula, who, like Drouin, didn't play the first five minutes of the third, and the final three.
You could argue that Kucherov was also having an off-game, but he played nearly the entire final five minutes.
"It's not saying that the guys who were out there last night will be out there (Thursday against Ottawa)," Cooper said. "It's situational. I always look at Nikita Kucherov, his first year in the league, he wasn't really out there in those situations, and then he was. Look at Drouin, look at (Tyler) Johnson, look at (Ondrej) Palat. Those guys initially weren't out there. Now they find their ways out there."
And when the Lightning practiced 6-on-5 drills at Wednesday's practice, Drouin found his way out there.