Halfway point highs and lows

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:40 AM ET

Pascal Leclaire has more shutouts than Jason Blake has goals.

The Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings are getting excellent goaltending, but it has not been Ray Emery and Dominik Hasek who have been providing the highlight-reel saves.

And stars such as Patrick Marleau and Michael Ryder apparently still play in the National Hockey League, though it has been hard to tell.

As the 2007-08 regular season bumps up against the halfway point in the next week, we take a look at some things that have opened our eyes and others that have us scratching our heads.

SURPRISES:

- Leclaire's seven shutouts in just 11 wins have been revealing, and so too has been the play of Martin Gerber in Ottawa and Chris Osgood in Detroit. And Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins leading the NHL with a .932 save percentage? Right.

- The hockey world had a good idea that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were going to be stars for the Chicago Blackhawks, but not this quickly. No other rookies come close to this dynamic pair.

- Mike Ribeiro is on his way to a career year with the Dallas Stars and already has tied his personal best of 20 goals.

- The surging New Jersey Devils, who lost Scott Gomez and Brian Rafalski last summer; coach Brent Sutter got them past a bumpy start and has proven his coaching achievements at other hockey levels were well-earned. Less was expected of the Dallas Stars and the Minnesota Wild as well.

- The emergence of Michael Richards with the Philadelphia Flyers, Atlanta Thrashers rookie defenceman Tobias Enstrom and Brad Boyes becoming the fastest St. Louis Blue to score 20 goals (in 31 games) since Brett Hull hit 20 in 29 games in 1994-95.

- The ability of the Phoenix Coyotes to keep pace. The lineup still looks like patchwork but Wayne Gretzky has his players at .500.

DISAPPOINTMENTS:

- The parents of Marleau (17 points and minus-7 in 36 games for the San Jose Sharks), Ryder (three goals in 32 games for the Montreal Canadiens) and Jordan Staal (three goals and a team-worst minus-11 in 37 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins) are worried about their sons. If you've seen them, please call.

- The Maple Leafs pair of Blake (five goals) and Darcy Tucker (three) was supposed to supply more. But, as Calgary Flames coach Mike Keenan said about lack of production: "That's pretty much the league overall. If your top line is not scoring, there's not that much secondary scoring."

- The treatment veteran Mark Recchi received in Pittsburgh by Penguins brass before he was claimed by the Thrashers on waivers.

- Flames netminder Miikka Kiprusoff is among the league leaders with 17 wins, but his .893 save percentage is well below the watermark and not what they expected.

- The Tampa Bay Lightning. Who cares if you have the player, Vincent Lecavalier, that some figure is the best in the game today when you're scraping the bottom of the barrel with the always-bad Washington Capitals?

- The Los Angeles Kings. Parity apparently does not reach all corners of the NHL.


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