An unexpected source of consistent offense for the Tampa Bay Lightning this postseason has been none other than Jonathan Drouin.
The use of the word unexpected may be surprising to some since he is a talented playmaker, but he had a bit of rocky season. He requested a trade and was sent to Tampa Bay’s AHL Affiliate, Syracuse Crunch. When he didn’t report to the Crunch, he was suspended indefinitely by the Lightning. He ended his protest and finally reported to the AHL. He was recalled on April 7 due to a blood clot that forced Steven Stamkos to miss one to three months.
Since Drouin’s return, he has played in 13 playoff games and has 11 points. The forward has been playing with Ondrej Palat and Valterri Filppula for most of the playoffs. Drouin has scored three goals, eight assists, that is 11 points while averaging 16:57 of ice time per game. Jon Cooper has him playing the point on the first power play unit with Victor Hedman.
The 11 points tie him for second on the Bolts roster with Hedman, just behind Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson, who have 14 points a piece. His eight assists are second in the postseason for Tampa Bay only to Johnson’s nine. Drouin’s 26 shots are fourth on the team behind Kucherov, Hedman and Jason Garrison.
Drouin is proving that he has the ability to be a point-producer in the NHL and he’s doing it while the Bolts are on another postseason run. In round 1, against the Detroit Red Wings, the forward had four assists in five games including three power play assists. He recorded his first multiple point postseason game in Game 4 when he recorded three power play assists to help lead Tampa Bay to a win. He added 13 shots in the series to help the Bolts advance to the second round where they faced the New York Islanders.
In series against the Isles, Drouin added one goal, four assists and five points in five games played. He had two more power play assists and one game winning goal, which came in Game 2. The forward added another multiple point game in the series in Game 2 where he recorded a goal and an assist. In game 3, he was hit up high and had to leave the game, but he returned and assisted on the game-tying goal with just 39 seconds left in regulation. The Bolts would go on to win the game in overtime. He added another power play assist in the series clinching Game 5.
In three games of the Eastern Conference Final, he has two goals and one costly turnover. He had a goal in each of the first two games and the turnover came in the third game of the series, but he needs to put the play in the past and get back to playing the way he has been all postseason long.
Drouin has been creating offense and scoring chances with his speed. If he has speed in the neutral zone, teams are backing off of him and giving him the time and space to create plays. He has great vision on the ice and is creative with the puck. He can put the puck in the net, but most of his points will come off of assists and setting up his line mates for goals. The biggest reason for the great postseason play has been confidence.
He has the confidence to make plays that he knows he can make and isn’t hesitating to make them. He is driving to the net and has done a decent job to getting puck towards the net. He has generally been involved on the ice almost every time out there whether he is using his speed to get to a loose puck or his vision to make a nifty play to a teammate. Drouin has been mixing it up in scrums and battling along the boards while in on the forecheck. He is using his skating skills to evade the opposing player and get into the offensive zone.
Drouin is showing in this postseason that he has the ability to be a dynamic offensive player. He’ll need to put Game 3 behind him and get back to the form he has had all postseason.