Larry Brooks feels New York Rangers not hard enough to play against

The New York Rangers have hit, what many hope to be, rock bottom. The team is 4-6-2 since the New Year and is coming off possibly the most embarrassing loss of the season, a 3-2 overtime defeat to the last-place San Jose Sharks in which the Blueshirts led 2-0 heading into the final frame.

After Tuesday’s game, Forever Blueshirts was joined by legendary reporter Larry Brooks of the NY Post, who gave his knowledge and opinion on this iteration of the Rangers.

“Their bottom six just does not score, but they’re only getting scoring at 5-on-5 from one of their top two lines,” Brooks said when talking about the team’s struggles. “This is a perfect example of why teams just cannot be so dependent on special teams. You have to be able to play 5-on-5 because 48 to 50 minutes of a game are played at 5-on-5.”

For a team that has been so reliant on their special teams for what feels like three years now, the Rangers have struggled in that department as well. Since the calendar turned over, the Rangers have just seven power play goals and are rolling at 19% on the man advantage, a far cry from their 31% clip through the first 35 games.

Related: Nick Bonino on waivers

Larry Brooks on New York Rangers struggles

NHL: New York Rangers at San Jose Sharks
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

One of the players who has seen a dip in production offensively due to the struggling powerplay is Mika Zibanejad. His seven powerplay goals this season put him on pace for his second-lowest total in that department since joining the Rangers. Mika has a single goal since the New Year and it came when his team was down 4-1 against Vegas last week.

“Mika has gone through stretches where his five-on-five production is down. One thing about Zibanejad is that when he is not scoring, he’s generally playing pretty well away from the puck and he is still this year he does an awful lot,” Brooks said mentioning that he and Chris Kreider are an outstanding penalty kill tandem.

Kreider and Zibanejad have seen their fair share of struggles this season. The duo has run through a string of right-wingers since Pavel Buchnevich was traded in the summer of 2021. Brooks did say that the lack of a consistent right-wing option should not be looked at as a crutch for why the two haven’t found as much success this year. A place to look would be shooting percentage.

Since the start of 2024, Kreider and Zibanejad have been shooting 9.8% and 4.2% respectively. The team as a whole has struggled in that department as well, shooting just 7.9% since January 2nd, after shooting 11.3% through the first 35 games.

“They’re the senior players on the team. They’re counted on. They do an awful lot for the team but they have to do more,” said Brooks.

Brooks on Rangers defense and goaltending

Last week I wrote an article titled “Rangers Could Use the 10-second Memory of a Goldfish”, talking about the team’s issue with allowing back-to-back goals in a short period of time. On Tuesday night in San Jose, that ugly trend reared its ugly head again as the Bluehsirts allowed a pair of goals in 2:04 to get the Sharks back into the game. That was the 21st instance this season in which the Rangers have allowed multiple goals within three minutes of each other and it’s something that has head coach Peter Laviolette perplexed.

“I actually asked Laviollete this question two weeks ago before they left on a road trip, I think it was before they went to St. Louis, in fact. And I brought it up to him and he said, ‘that’s a question I wish I had an answer for. I don’t know.’ Well, if he doesn’t know, I don’t know.”

The team’s defense and goaltending have been scrutinized heavily since the New Year, and for good reason. Through the first 23 games of the season, the Rangers were 18-4-1, allowing 2.61 goals per game with a team save percentage of .920. In the last 24 games, the Rangers are 11-11-2, allowing 3.13 goals per game and a team save percentage of .897. Shesterkin’s .901 save percentage this season is the worst season mark among Rangers goalies with at least 31 starts since 2007-08.

“You go in the season with two pillars being your goaltender and your Norris Trophy candidate, and neither one has been quite where they need to be,” Brooks told Forever Blueshirts. “And Shesterkin hasn’t been close to where he’s needed to be on a consistent level. He’s had a lot of highs, but he’s had too many downs.”

Larry Brooks feels Rangers need to be tougher

Many Ranger fans look for what trades the team can make that will make them better, and most of the time the names can be outlandish. Players the team can’t afford even if they want to, or guys that simply don’t fit the system the team plays. But with 13 games until the trade deadline, and no sign of any type of course correction, Rangers fans may be in for a very underwhelming trade deadline in March.

“I think it would be a mistake for Chris Drury to throw Hail Mary’s,” Brooks said when discussing the Rangers deadline plans. “My overarching observation from game one to game 46 is that they’re not hard enough to play against, and that’s what I would be looking to fortify between now and the trade deadline.”

Despite the Rangers struggles for the better part of two months now, the team still sits with a decent lead in the Metropolitan Division with two games left before the NHL All-Star break. A complete eight-day hiatus from hockey could be exactly what this team needs to shift their focus back to the style they played through the first 23 games of the season.

Forever Blueshirts would like to thank Larry Brooks for joining the show and giving us some of his time.

For the full interview, please check out our YouTube channel, and remember to hit the subscribe button.

Steven Pappas is a North Jersey native who works as a news anchor and reporter at WHAM-13 in Rochester,... More about Steven Pappas

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