3 huge surprises from the Buffalo Sabres in October 2023

Oct 29, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar (8) looks for the puck during the third period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 29, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar (8) looks for the puck during the third period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Buffalo Sabres may have finished October 2023 with a losing record, but they were nothing short of a few pleasant surprises. 

The Buffalo Sabres may not have started the season as hotly as some may have hoped, but it doesn’t mean they were short of surprising fans in other avenues. No, the team isn’t quite where it was offensively this time last season, but they seem to be turning a corner in that regard.

There are, however, three areas where the team (and in one case a player), has given us quite the the thrill ride. Keep reading to see where the Sabres threw its fanbase a curveball, but in a good way.

3 surprises from the Buffalo Sabres in October

1 – Penalty kill

Perhaps the biggest of the three surprises, no one saw the Sabres penalty kill, one of the worst in the league in 2022-23, grace the sixth spot in the NHL as of Monday afternoon. But here they are, boasting a rate of 89.19 percent, having allowed just four goals on 37 attempts.

The 37 times Buffalo has seen itself on the PK ranks third in the league, behind only the Montreal Canadiens and the Anaheim Ducks, who both have 41. So far, it’s been a reversal from last season, when Buffalo’s power play was among the league’s best, but still, it’s good to see at least one special teams unit clicking.

2 – Shutouts and near-shutouts

We were all excited to see the Buffalo Sabres post their first shutout of the season, which doubled as the first of goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen’s career. But remember, just last week, the Blue and Gold nearly posted another shutout with Eric Comrie in the net vs. the New York Islanders.

Everything looked as though it was going the Sabres way until Noah Dobson scored with 1:21 left, nixing goaltender Eric Comrie from posting his second-straight shutout vs. the Isles. Either way, few thought the Sabres would post one shutout and nearly another given how badly they played at times on defense.

3 – Tuch playing a jack-of-all-trades role

Alex Tuch had a rough opening month, but he seems to be finding ways to contribute offensively once again. But did any of us see Tuch getting in two fights across the first nine games and nearly getting into another?

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These days, the role of “enforcer” is no longer specialized for the most part, and a player on the lower lines often takes up the mantle in addition to their other duties. But after a strong showing in the last few games offensively, some gritty play, and even solid defense (eight blocks and a 92.6 team-wide on-ice save percentage with him on the ice, Tuch looks like he’s taking on the jack-of-all-trades role – at least as far as October 2023 has gone.

(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference)