A devilish grin comes across Doug Gilmour's face as he reflects on his playoff days as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"For me it was pure excitement," Gilmour said. "The season was over and now nobody was getting paid so it's time to get down to business.
"Obviously when you make the playoffs in Toronto it's electric. The adrenaline for me was way more intense in the playoffs than it was in the regular season."
Gilmour, the general manager of the Ontario Hockey League's Kingston Frontenacs, will be watching the Maple Leafs with keen interest as his former club goes head-to-head with the Presidents' Trophy-winning Washington Capitals beginning Thursday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET).
The Maple Leafs are in the playoffs for just the second time in the past eight seasons. With nine rookies playing a significant role in getting the Leafs to the post-season, the team faces a monumental challenge against the Capitals, a team that has had its share of playoff misery in recent years.
Leading the way is 19-year-old Auston Matthews, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft who led all freshmen with 40 goals (a Maple Leafs rookie record) and 69 points in 82 games. Toronto had three of the top four rookie scorers in the NHL (Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner) and six of the top 21.
'Hudson's Bay rules'
Gilmour said the young Toronto players have to be prepared for what will certainly be a rise in the intensity of games.
"It's a little bit more Hudson's Bay rules after the whistle as far as body contact goes," Gilmour said. "Try to initiate more than retaliate. Do the same things you have been doing all year, but do them with more focus. Players know what is in front of them, but they still have to experience it to really get it."
Gilmour played 20 seasons in the NHL and is known as one of the most competitive individuals of all time. At 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, Gilmour saved his best and most courageous performances for the playoffs, where his points-per-game average rose to 1.03 from 0.96 in the regular season. He got more productive as the games got tougher.
During the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons, when Gilmour was the centrepiece of teams that made it to consecutive conference finals, he scored 16 goals and a whopping 63 points in 39 playoff games.
A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, who won the Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989, Gilmour recalls shutting out the world and focusing only on hockey in the playoffs.
"Your focus is totally different," Gilmour said. "Sure, you have family coming to the games, but they have to understand that you won't be talking to them too much. You need your rest. Playoffs come and go real quick and your goal as an athlete is to go as far as you can."
Gilmour believes the Maple Leafs are blessed with a special group of youngsters and he has a little bit of advice for them.
"In the regular season you are going to have your ups and downs, but when it comes to the playoffs, you can't have a down," Gilmour said. "Some guys feel pressure and some guys don't. Obviously these guys didn't feel pressure this year. They simply need to go out and play with the same energy they did all year and maybe good things will happen. It's going to be exciting."
If there is one player Gilmour will be focusing on, it's Marner. At 5-foot-10 and weighing less than 160 pounds, roughly the same size Gilmour was when he broke into the NHL with the St. Louis Blues in 1983-84, Marner plays a similar gritty style.
"I know Mitch likes to pass the puck, but he's also a goal-scorer," Gilmour said. "In junior I was a goal-scorer, but in the NHL I was more of a playmaker.
"I can't wait to see this kid in five years. He's going to have a little more size and he'll be tougher. Your mindset is different when you are bigger and stronger. You know the league and you know what you can do.