Why key players must step up

The Penguins are down 3-0, and a suspension will leave James Neal watching. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Six Boston Bruins topped the 20-goal mark during the regular season, but their bottom six forwards have been littering the score sheet during the first-round Eastern Conference series versus the Washington Capitals.

Brian Rolston, Daniel Paille, Chris Kelly and Benoit Pouliot have combined for four goals and five assists -- including all of Boston's offense in the first two games -- while Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic have mustered just one assist among them.

Yet, despite the lack of production from their regular-season scoring leaders, the Bruins find themselves up 2-1 in the series.

"The strength of this team is we are a team," Rolston said. "Obviously they would like to contribute, but they contribute in more ways than one. Doesn't make a difference if we are all pulling on the rope together."

Meanwhile, the Caps will be without Nicklas Backstrom for Game 4 and the Pittsburgh Penguins will miss James Neal in Wednesday night's elimination game due to suspensions. Marian Hossa looks to be out indefinitely following a monstrous hit by Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres.

With so much on the line in the playoffs, the contrast in situations begs the question: Does a team need its best players to be its best players to advance in the postseason and ultimately win the Cup?