Dale Hunter's use of Alex Ovechkin in these playoffs has become a daily story. I'm not sure how much of a story it really is. Ovie is a superstar who has been used to playing much more on average than he is playing in this post season. Its not a "benching" its simply coaching. Ovechkin is a one dimensional player. Very dangerous when he has the puck and a train wreck defensively when he doesn't.
In the past his coach's have been leery of cutting back his ice time when the team is defending a lead fearing his reaction or that of the teams ownership and management. Dale Hunter doesn't fear either because he doesn't need this job and thus does not have job security as a motivation.
There is a contention that Hunter uses exactly the opposite method with his junior team in London by over playing his stars. The flaw in this argument is that Hunter and his brother Mark select all the players in London and they would not have any one dimensional players on their team. Their best players with the Knights are also their best defensive players so the comparison is not valid.
The microscopic camera work by the TV networks, close ups of every shift, both Ovechkin and Semin play only reinforces Hunter's decision. No back checking, no forechecking, and not only no commitment to defence but an apparent complete lack of understanding in what to do and how to do it.
Looking at his total ice time per game and comparing it to other games is also a flawed comparison. The game situation is the important key. How much does he play when the game is tied or the Caps are trailing? How much does he play when they are defending a lead? The answers are a lot and very little.
This is nothing new. When the dynasty Montreal Canadians were leading a game Cournoyer and Lafleur didn't play as much as Gainey and Jarvis. The biggest difference from then to now is media analysis. Then it was good coaching. Now its insulting a superstar. Then it was trying to win and now it is not getting full value from your highest paid player.
This is nothing new. Its simply called coaching.
See you at the rink.