It may be the middle of January, but for Vancouver Canucks forward Mason Raymond, he feels like his season is just starting.
If so, it started with quite a bang Tuesday when he pulled out a sensational spin-o-rama for a shootout goal in a 4-3 win against the Islanders.
As Raymond crossed the blue line on his attempt, he skated through the right circle and then angled toward the net. As he neared the crease, he slammed on the brakes, spun back the other way, and as Islanders rookie goalie Kevin Poulin slid the wrong way, Raymond easily tapped the puck into an open net with his backhand.
"It's high-risk, high-reward," Raymond told NHL.com. "It's one of those things, the shootouts now are so creative, guys are doing things that I'm sure you wouldn't have imagined five years ago they were going to do. It's a move that if you can really get that goalie to bite, you do have the whole net to put the puck into."
It was all laughs on the Canucks bench, but don't think Raymond came up with his dazzling move somewhere between center ice and the blue line.
"We had a shootout against Detroit on Saturday night," he said. "I wasn't in the first three shooters but I thought I might be up next, and I thought about maybe doing it that night. It is a move I have tried in practice, have done it in the preseason before, had some success with it. ... It's something I've practiced. I had a good idea I was going to try it last night. Coach (Alain Vigneault) gave me the call to go out there and I said I'm going to do it."
While Raymond said he didn't hear any feedback from the Islanders, he's used to hearing some yapping in practice.
"I always joke with Louie (Roberto Luongo), he hates when I do it," said Raymond. "He always tries to give me a shot or something."
Luongo may not like the spin-o-rama, but Raymond's other teammates certainly gave it rave reviews.
"I thought it was great," Canucks captain Henrik Sedin told NHL.com. "A lot of guys are doing that right now. I think the fans love it and that's why we have the shootout. It's not for goalies to be mad at guys or for the other team to get upset because someone is doing something. I think it's great for the fans. The people that left the game last night, they talked about it and that's what we need."
"It's a special move," added teammate Ryan Kesler. "A (gutsy) move pulled off by a special player. He's a guy that pulls off moves like that. All the guys got a good chuckle on the bench after. I'll never pull it off."
A few weeks ago, it was something Raymond wouldn't have been able to execute. Already playing with a right hand broken early in the season, he broke his right thumb Dec. 8, 2010 against the Ducks. He missed a month, and returned Jan. 2 to score the game-winner against the Avalanche.
It's his only regulation-time goal in six games back, but he's feeling better every day.
"The hands are getting better," said Raymond. "It's not to a point where I feel it's where I want it to be. Hockey's a sport where you probably never play at 100 percent all the time anyhow. It is getting better, it's a process, but I am in a state now where I'm able to be on the ice and contribute."
Raymond said he used his time off to watch the game from a different vantage point -- mostly the press box at Rogers Arena.
"You sit up top, the game looks so easy, seems so slow," he said. "You learn from it. There's certain things you pick out, maybe not realize it. It's interesting to go through those things. It's obviously more fun to be back in the lineup, but when you do get back you hopefully take those things you learned and put them to use on the ice."
He's hoping to see results like Tuesday's game more often in the new year.
"It's funny -- to me, in truth it feels like the season's just starting," he said. "Here we are halfway thought the season, but it's been one of those years where it's been tough. I've fought through some things, missed some time. I can only hope the body stays in a relatively good state and healthy and continue forward. It does feel like this is just the start of things to come."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com