Ovechkin talks with reporters after Hunter steps down as Capitals coach. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

“Family is always in the first position. It's his decision,” Alex Ovechkin said. “It's his decision so we have to live with it.”

Ovechkin admitted that personally it was “pretty hard” for him to adjust to Hunter’s defensive system early on. but that he tried to shelve his expectations and do what was best for the team, even if that included playing less than 15 minutes in some playoff games. 

“It doesn’t matter if I like it or not, because he’s my coach and I have to listen,” Ovechkin said. “How he said, you have to be a plumber. So I was a plumber.”

Ovechkin, who will leave to join Team Russia at the IIHF World Championships later this afternoon, said that despite some of the growing pains he “learned a lot” from Hunter and that the rugged former NHLer reminded him of an old coach he had growing up in Russia.

Capitals franchise centerman Nicklas Backstrom said he knows the team will be able to adjust to a new coach next season, but was blunt in expressing his disappointment in Hunter’s decision not to return to Washington.

“We played good hockey in the playoff and I think he’s been doing so many good things for this team,” said Backstrom, who will also travel to the World Championships later today. “I really wanted to see him back next year but unfortunately he’s not. It’s not good.”

More on Dale Hunter:
Hunter steps down as Capitals coach
— Boswell reaction: UNBELIEVABLE!
— December 2011: Hunter still has work to do
— March: Hunter tied to hockey fortunes in two cities