One more day in sun for Bruins, Penguins icons: Bergeron, Crosby face off at Winter Classic

McDavid, MacKinnon, Makar, Marner, Matthews and McAvoy are the hot names in hockey these days, as Sidney Crosby's career has finally outrun the hype machine that used to chronicle his every move.

But before the curtain comes down on Crosby's generation, there is at least one more showcase: Monday's Bruins-Penguins Winter Classic matchup at Fenway Park (2 p.m., TNT, 98.5 FM).

Like him/them or not, Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins have earned whatever respect they get now that Sid the Kid and Kris Letang are both 35 and Evgeni Malkin is 36.

The Penguins are the only team in the NHL's 17-year, salary-cap era to win back-to-back Stanley Cup championships and the only team to twice appear in consecutive Cup finals. Their three titles during the cap era equal the nearly dynastic Chicago Blackhawks, and Pittsburgh is the only team of the era to make the Cup final four times.

The Mike Sullivan-coached 2016 and '17 runs to glory are now six and seven years ago, so be surprised if Crosby, Malkin and Letang don't treasure this moment in the spotlight every bit as much as Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Brad Marchand.

Letang, who recently suffered the second stroke of his career, is still playing hockey, and that is a miracle. A scary, nervous miracle.

So who's the home team?

Snarky joke, but wasn't this Winter Classic a gimme the moment the ink dried on the $900 million agreement that gave Fenway Sports Group controlling interest in the Penguins?

It's a weird convergence of branding, this business of pro hockey and the great outdoors.

LeBron James owns 2% of Fenway Sports Group (Red Sox, Liverpool FC and the Penguins), but there has been no mention of the NBA's biggest star of the past quarter century stealing any of Monday's spotlight from the likes of Bobby Orr, David Ortiz and other Boston sports legends scheduled to participate in pregame ceremonies.

There is a sense among the stakeholders of "been there, done that," and it could have something to do with the fact Fenway Park is the first venue to host two Winter Classics. But this should be a great hockey game. That was certainly the vibe among the many fans who swarmed City Hall Plaza for the weekend's NHL Fan Fest.

If you had not heard, the Bruins (who took a whopping 25-4-2 into their New Years Eve matinee against visiting Buffalo) are putting up one of the best seasons in modern NHL history. At 8-1-1 in their last 10, the Penguins (19-9-4) come into Fenway smoking hot.

Monday's weather is the pick of the week. The rain will have moved out, and the temperatures will fall below 50 Fahrenheit but not by much.

Pittsburgh center Jeff Carter, the only player not named Bergeron or Krejci who also played the Bruins-Flyers Fenway Winter Classic on January 1, 2010, turns 38 on New Year's Day 2023. The well-traveled Carter also arrives with pedigree, having won the Cup twice in three years with the Los Angeles Kings.

Unlike in 2010 when the rink ran from first to third base, the NHL has installed the rink for the 2023 game more in line with the football footprint. The sun will set in the eyes of the goalie on the team that defends in shallow right field.

And, by sunset, only the Blackhawks will have played as many Winter Classics as the Bruins (four) and as many outdoor games overall as the Penguins (six).

It's fully expected in this space that the elder statesmen of the Bruins and the Penguins are going to leave it all on the field, know their time is up as NHL superstars.

While it's entirely conceivable that the Crosby-Malkin or Bergeron-Krejci duo could generate one or two more title runs, there is a sense that the NHL spotlight is all but done with this generation and will soon have eyes only for those kids named M-something.

Enjoy these players while you still can.

Mick Colageo writes about hockey for The Standard-Times. Follow on Twitter @MickColageo.

This article originally appeared on Standard-Times: Hockey: Bruins, Penguins icons Bergeron, Crosby at Winter Classic