(Boston) Bruins training ends on Wednesday noon, in their grandiose complex on the outskirts of the city. A short exercise, the day after their 54th victory of the season.

The session ends like everywhere else with stretching in the center of the ice rink. Quebecer A. J. Greer is the lucky one in the middle of the circle, possibly a harbinger of a return on Thursday, who knows.

The stretches finished, Patrice Bergeron begins his tour. He goes to each player, one after the other, for a fist-to-fist. Both guards get some good slashing on the pads, and the aforementioned Greer gets a little more love than the rest.

“When you get older, you appreciate the little things even more,” Bergeron told the two Montreal reporters in the Bruins locker room afterwards. I often talk about staying in the present moment. This year, it is a pleasure to come to the arena every day. »

A chapter in Bruins history could close this year. Bergeron refuses to comment on his future, but the fact that he is now playing under a one-year contract, signed a month before the opening of training camps, is a reminder that the Quebecer there now goes one year at a time. Ditto for his teammate David Krejci, whose return was also announced on August 8, also on a one-year contract.

At 37 and 36 respectively, Bergeron and Krejci are the 7th and 10th oldest forwards in the NHL. Like Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr 50 years ago, they will be associated with a Bruins golden age. Since teaming up, they have led the Bruins to the Stanley Cup in 2011, two more finals in 2013 and 2019.

Bergeron joined the NHL in 2003, and Krejci joined him full-time in 2008. Since then, the Bruins have ranked first in the league with a .649 record, ahead of the Capitals (.638) and the Penguins (.634). In the playoffs, only the Lightning (95) have won more games than the Bruins (90).

Bergeron and Krejci have only known the Bruins in the NHL. Krejci left Boston last season, but it was to play at home in the Czech Republic.

Tom Brady, Kiss and Jacques Rougeau have announced their retirement before reconsidering their decision. In the Bruins locker room, however, we are not counting on such an outcome.

Their teammates seem well aware that this 2022-2023 season could be the last of the two centers.

“Nobody wants to let them down. It could be their last year and we are aware of the pressure they impose on themselves, adds striker Pavel Zacha, compatriot of Krejci. They accept this pressure and try to help everyone achieve the common goal. »

The situation is reminiscent of the Canadiens’ shortened 2021 season. Although from the outside, it was hard to believe that the end of Carey Price and Shea Weber was so close, but their teammates seemed to understand that they could offer a retirement gift to the two veterans. And that’s how a not-exactly-the-best-on-paper team got to three Stanley Cup wins.

The circumstances here are different, mainly because the two veterans in question don’t have a valid contract until 2026, but the spirit is oddly similar.

Anyway, if Bergeron and Krejci are on their last miles, it does not show on the ice.

Bergeron is keeping up the pace offensively (55 points in 70 games) and heading for a sixth Selke Trophy (top defensive forward) according to informal polls conducted by ESPN colleague Greg Wyshynski since the start of the season. Krejci has 54 points in 64 games.

Bergeron also assumes his responsibilities as captain with the expected confidence. Pavel Zacha knows something about it. The forward was traded from the Devils to the Bruins on July 13. At that time, Bergeron had yet to announce his intentions for the upcoming season, but the Quebecer had nevertheless been “the first” to text him, and called him the next day.

“When he texted me, I asked him what his plans were and he didn’t know yet. It was announced a month or two later. He didn’t tell me much. Even if he had not returned, I would have been happy to have had this call from a leader like him. It was nice that he thought of texting and calling me. »