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All aboard the nostalgia train for one last ride

It may be the evening, but the day isn’t quite over yet.

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(061311 Boston, MA) Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron celebrates center David Krejci’s goal in the third period of Game Six of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals at the TD Garden Monday, June 13, 2011. Staff Photo by Matt Stone Photo by Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

We’ve got a variety of different age groups here on Stanley Cup of Chowder, but most of us consider ourselves Bruins fans since we were little kids.

I have vague memories (and the faded ticket stub to prove it) of attending a B’s game at the original Garden.

I have vivid memories of playing street hockey in my 1996 All-Star Game Franklin goalie mask, and of getting torched in that goalie mask by two kids who’d go on the play in the NHL.

Then there are memories of playoff series won and lost, debacles against the Montreal Canadiens, lockouts, firings, hirings, signings...all the hallmarks of fandom.

Depending on your age, however, you’ll have a particular version of the Bruins that you always harken back to - it could be the “almost good enough” teams of the early 90s, the “big, bad” teams of the 70s, or maybe the “finding ways to lose in the playoffs” teams of the early 2000s.

For me, because of my age, I’ll likely always fixate on the late 2000s through early 2020s editions of the B’s, the ones we’ve loved to argue about on this website for more than a decade.

I started college in 2006, just as things were starting to turn around. College ended as the B’s were knocking on the door of a Cup, one they’d win in 2011.

I started writing for this website in 2013, a few months before another memorable, but ultimately disappointing, playoff run.

I was in a hospital room after the birth of my first son, half-hearing a nurse talk about breastfeeding, when news of the Rask Bubble Saga broke.

Through most of the 2010s, we were, for the most part, blessed with a team that was consistently good, sometimes great, sometimes bordering on immortal - and guys like Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Tuukka Rask, Brad Marchand, and Zdeno Chara were the core guys in those core memories.

Simply put, if you’re around my age, it’s hard to remember the Bruins without guys like Krejci, Bergeron, Rask, Marchand, and Chara — and even if you’re of a different age group, you’ve got a ton of great hockey memories associated with those players.

Time comes for us all, however, and over the past few years, some of the names on that list have begun to fade away.

The Bruins have become a team with a perennially closing Stanley Cup window, but one that never seems to quite slam fully shut - just when you think the party’s over, a run like 2019 happens.

Still, we all know what’s coming.

You can’t make the necessary sacrifices that come with being a contender for a decade and chase them with some brutal drafting without eventually having to pay the bill.

Call it a retool, call it a rebuild, call it a reset, call it a refresh.

Whatever your preferred “R” word, down times, while hopefully brief, lie ahead — but maybe, just maybe, not quite yet.

In some ways, it’s laughable: we’re all fired up about the return of two centers whose combined age is 73 years old.

When the Bruins drafted one of those guys, their current top prospect, Fabian Lysell, was just five months old.

The other hasn’t played in the NHL for a year and is coming off of a season spent in a (no offense, Czechia) Tier 4 league...

...and yet it’s hard to remember the last offseason that featured as much excitement as Monday’s news dump.

This website is a good barometer for the Bruins fan base, and if you scroll through Monday’s comments, the vibes are off the charts.

We’ve gone from “what are we doing here” to being legitimately excited about the season in just a couple of days.

Problems remain, of course: the Atlantic Division has gotten stronger, the B’s will be dealing with some injuries to key players for the early part of the season, and we have no idea how the team will react to Jim Montgomery.

Still, we’re on board: the Bruins are returning arguably the best three-zone forward of the past two decades and the best pure playmaker they’ve had during that same time period.

All of a sudden, that “fully healthy top six” looks legit, and allows the third line to possibly get a lift from a guy like Pavel Zacha or from someone else bumped further down the lineup.

We know Bergeron will be Bergeron. Krejci was never a guy who relied on the solely physical talents, instead excelling with vision and hockey smarts that shouldn’t fade with age.

Charlie McAvoy will continue his Norris push. Hey, don’t forget about Hampus Lindholm. The goalie situation is sorted.

“We may have something here,” you think.

And why not?

A clearly flawed Bruins team took an excellent Carolina Hurricanes team to seven games in the spring, and the fully healthy version of the 2022-2023 Bruins is undoubtedly better than last year’s squad.

There’s reason to be optimistic that if things come together, this year’s Bruins can make some noise.

However, there’s another more obvious reason for the outpouring of enthusiasm: last call.

As mentioned earlier, it feels like the Bruins have been on the verge of being a true also-ran for a few years now, but they’ve managed to hang around.

However, Bergeron is 37. Krejci is 36. Marchand is 34 and just a few years away from the “new deal or retire” dilemma. Rask is gone. Chara is gone.

At the risk of oversimplifying things, the reason for all of the excitement over Monday’s news is simple: it’s one last kick at the can.

Even the Bruins organization seems to know this: while the phrase “mortgaging the future” is a little too dramatic, GM Don Sweeney is essentially putting the Bergeron and Krejci contracts on a credit card and figuring out how to pay for them later.

We all know that despite the great times, the Bergeron-Krejci-Marchand Era is going to end at some point — but after Monday, that time isn’t here yet.

Maybe the pieces all fall into place. Maybe both guys pick up where they left off, the walking wounded return fully healthy, and a positive trade deadline puts the B’s in a strong position next spring.

Or maybe it all falls flat, and two centers pushing 40 aren’t enough to bother the Colorados and Tampas of the world.

It’s August, however, and what’s left of the band is getting back together. The vibes are tremendous. Optimism is the theme of the day.

I, like all of you, have been fortunate to watch some excellent hockey teams led by guys like Bergeron and Krejci, and am looking forward to having the chance to do that again this season.

A new era looms, and the sun is rapidly setting on one of the most successful Bruins cores of the last 40 years.

But there’s still enough daylight left to give it another shot — and sometimes, that’s all you need.