The New York Rangers were heavily expected to contend for the Stanley Cup after grabbing the Eastern Conference's top seed last season and acquiring superstar Rick Nash in the offseason.
The Philadelphia Flyers have made the playoffs 16 out of the past 17 seasons, and after finishing fifth in the East last season, they were expected to remain among the league's elite, considering that their roster didn't undergo many changes in the offseason.
Despite a seventh-place finish in the Eastern Conference last season, the Capitals' hiring of Adam Oates as their new head coach was expected to bring back the prolific offense that Washington boasted in previous years, thus bringing them back to the being a powerhouse and true Cup contender.
So far, all three of these teams are on the outside looking in.
The Rangers have scored just 73 goals, which is currently last in the NHL. Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist has a mediocre 13-12-2 record, far from what we usually see in "King Henrik."
Right now, the Rangers are barely clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, even though they were expected to contend with Pittsburgh for the Atlantic Division crown.
Philadelphia has scored just 82 goals, which is tied for 13th in the Eastern Conference and is simply unacceptable for a team that's loaded with plenty talent on offense. Ilya Bryzgalov has been putrid, with a 13-13-2 record, .900 save percentage and a 2.75 goals-against average. The fact he was signed to a nine-year, $51 million contract two summers ago makes his play incredibly repugnant.
The Flyers are five points out of eighth place, and with so much talent and the league's highest payroll, this team is not living up to its high expectations.
Washington is just two points out of the final playoff spot, but with the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Ribeiro leading the offense, this team should be leading the weak Southeast Division instead of fighting for the final playoff spot.
The Capitals have been playing better lately, with three consecutive wins, but a 15-16-1 record is incredibly surprising for a team that's loaded with talent at every position.
All three of these teams are fighting for their playoff lives, even though they were expected to have little trouble finding a postseason berth. All three teams' playoff hopes are strongly in jeopardy, and they have just over a month to improve their game and earn a trip to the postseason. It would be surprising to see any one of these teams miss out.