The weather report in Washington for Wednesday was partly sunny with temperatures in the low 80s — not exactly hockey weather.

Nevertheless, the Washington Capitals began their 2021-22 National Hockey League (NHL) season Wednesday night by hosting the New York Rangers at Capital One Arena. (Check today’s sports section for the game results.)

Over the years, the Washington Capitals have spoiled local hockey fans. That may sound strange to say because of their many postseason disappointments, but the Caps have had 14 straight winning seasons. And they won the Stanley Cup in 2018.

Washington should have another winner this season. The Caps’ roster is filled with familiar names and faces.

Alex Ovechkin, who signed a five-year contract with the Caps last summer, is back for his 17th season in Washington. Ovechkin has 730 career regular season goals and has his sights on Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894 goals.

Ovechkin has averaged more than 45 goals a season in his career. If he can keep up that pace (a big if), he will overtake “The Great One” in less than four years.

Ace playmaker Nicklas Backstrom and high-scoring defenseman John Carlson return, along with veteran stalwarts such as T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller.

The problem is that all these players — four of whom were the Caps’ top point scorers last season — will be between 32 and 36 years old during this season. The average age of the Capitals was 2½ years older than the average age of an NHL team last year, and this year’s Caps are not any younger.

In kids’ sports, older players are often better and stronger. But hockey is the kind of fast-moving, rough game in which older players may get hurt more and struggle to keep up with younger, quicker skaters.

Ovechkin (36 years old) and Backstrom (34 next month) are already dealing with injuries. Ovechkin hurt his lower body by putting a check on a Philadelphia Flyers player in the Caps’ last preseason game. Backstrom has a bad hip and has “no timetable” for his return.

Washington does have younger players moving up through their system. The team’s first-round draft picks in 2019 and 2020, Connor McMichael (age 20) and Hendrix Lapierre (19), are slick passing forwards who have impressed in the lower levels and may be ready to help the big club.

Washington can probably squeeze another winning season or two out of their aging stars. But the time is coming soon when the team will have to think about replacing the Ovechkins and Backstroms with the McMichaels and Lapierres.

Things may be changing on the Washington pro hockey scene this season. And I don’t just mean the warm weather.

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