Continued from page 1

In 20 trips to the Games, the U.S. has won 11 medals. It got gold in 1960 as well as 1980. It has won silver eight times.

What’s going to happen this year? The U.S. team, which includes John Carlson of the Capitals, is confident it can win the gold medal. Of course, so are numerous other teams. How realistic are the U.S. chances?

Stephen Whyno, who covered hockey for The Times for two years and now covers hockey for Canadian Press, thinks the U.S. is going to play for a medal — but come up short. Whyno has Sweden winning the gold medal over host Russia with Finland beating the U.S. for the bronze. Canada, he thinks, will finish fifth. If Whyno is right, at least one Capital will be happy. Nicklas Backstrom is playing for Sweden.

Whyno thinks goaltending will carry the U.S. to whatever place it finishes. Ryan Miller, so strong at the 2010 Games, and 2012 Stanley Cup MVP Jonathan Quick will provide the U.S. with goalkeeping that’s likely to be as strong as any team at the Olympics. But, Whyno notes, the defense corps is young. The centers, he said, aren’t as good as countries like Sweden and Canada.

But if the goaltending is strong, who knows? Stranger things have happened.

Who had the U.S. winning gold in 1980?

One thing is absolutely certain: It is going to be a great 12 days of hockey and a great 16 days of the Olympics. If you need me for something between Feb. 7-23, don’t bother to call or leave a message. I’ll be busy.