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Tavares taking nothing for granted in return to playoffs

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TSN Toronto reporter Mark Masters checks in daily with news and notes on the Maple Leafs, who practised at MasterCard Centre on Wednesday before flying to Boston.

Does John Tavares know how crazy Toronto gets in the playoffs?

"Honestly, not really," he said. "When I was a kid I wasn’t about town, and out in Oakville (where he grew up) you probably didn’t get that feel as much as being right in the heart of the city."

Tavares is quickly learning what it's like.

"Over the last week or so a lot of people have shown their support, a lot of people waving around town and talking about this series and excited for us and this opportunity," he said.

Tavares is in his 10th NHL season, but has only been on the winning side of one playoff series. So, while this is only the start​ of his Toronto tenure, there’s been an urgency in both his play and his voice this year.

"You get to the Stanley Cup playoffs and this is what you work for, these opportunities, and you can’t let them pass when they come. You never know when, possibly, it could be your time," the 28-year-old centre stressed. "You have to take this as serious as any opportunity you’re ever going to get."

Tavares is a first overall pick, who has learned to take nothing for granted. He made the playoffs just three times during nine seasons in New York. But when he made it he produced with 11 goals and 22 points in 24 career playoff games, including a double overtime series clincher against the Florida Panthers in 2016.

"That opportunity is what you play for," Tavares said. "Obviously, pressure comes with that, but this is what makes the game fun and what’s so great about playing in the NHL and for the Stanley Cup."

Tavares produced 47 goals and 88 points this season, both career highs, but was quick to point out that the playoffs are a different beast.

"You got to try and carry the momentum as long as you can and when you don’t have it you got to go out there and find a way to get it back and try to handle that adversity as best you can," Tavares said. "Not trying to worry about the kind of season you had is really the way I approach it."

"Lots of times you've had a career year and if you go two........