The Buffalo Sabres entered the 2023-24 NHL season with a lot of hype around them. Armed with one of the most promising cores in the league, many expected this team to compete for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And given that this team came within a single point of making it last season, that expectation wasn't exactly off base.

However, the team has had an up-and-down start to the 2023-24 season. The talent isn't lacking, with usual stars like Tage Thompson and Rasmus Dahlin still showing their skill. That said, the team just hasn't found the same success they found one year ago.

Of course, it's still early. In fact, the Sabres played just 13 games entering play Friday. But we are starting to creep into the middle part of the season. Pretenders and contenders will separate themselves very soon. It'll be interesting to see which camp the Sabres find themselves in.

Before we reach the midway point, though, let's take stock of Buffalo's start to the year. And then we can go over their most pleasant surprise and biggest disappointment of the relatively young 2023-24 NHL season.

Buffalo's early start

The Sabres began their season at home against the New York Rangers in a losing effort. They'd lose again in their second game to the New York Islanders before picking up their first win against the Tampa Bay Lightning. From October 19 to October 27, Buffalo would alternate between losing one game and winning the next.

Buffalo's longest winning streak of the season so far is just two games. They shut out the Colorado Avalanche on October 29 before defeating the Philadelphia Flyers on November 1. They'd lose to the Flyers a few days later, beat the Toronto Maple Leafs one day after that, and lose to the Carolina Hurricanes on November 7. Finally, they defeated the Minnesota Wild on Friday.

Sabres' penalty kill is a welcomed sight

Buffalo has struggled with consistency so far this year. However, one point of welcomed consistency they've found is on their penalty kill. Last season, the Sabres had a terrible time killing penalties. In fact, they were the fifth-worst penalty-killing unit in the entire league, according to ESPN.

This year, however, things have done a complete 180. Buffalo boasts the fourth-best penalty-killing unit in the NHL. Only the Boston Bruins have a better penalty-killing unit in the Eastern Conference. It's a remarkable turnaround for a Sabres team that had some defensive concerns entering the season.

Buffalo should strive to clean up their penalties, though. For as well as the penalty killing has held up, the Sabres have the seventh-most penalty minutes in the league this year. They cannot continue to take penalties if they want to turn their season around. If Buffalo can be more disciplined, and the penalty killing remains the same, the Sabres will be in good shape.

Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power, and Dylan Cozens, leaders of a disappointing Buffalo Sabres power play this season, at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo

Sabres' power play, though…

Speaking of 180's, the Sabres power play has not been good enough. In 2022-23, Buffalo boasted a top-1o power play unit. So far in 2023-24, however, things just have not been the same. In fact, they've been much worse than what we saw from this unit last season.

Entering play Friday, the Sabres had the sixth-worst power play unit in the entire league. Only the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals have struggled more on the man advantage than Buffalo in the East. Buffalo's offense was the least of anyone's worries heading into this season. As a result, this unit has been a major disappointment.

Only five Sabres skaters have scored a power play goal this year. Granted, among these names are the team's best players. Tage Thompson, Jeff Skinner, and Rasmus Dahlin are among those who have found the back of the net with the man advantage. However, the Sabres certainly need more from this unit if they plan on righting the ship in 2023-24.