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Rick Zamperin: First glimpse of 2018-19 Maple Leafs is impressive

Toronto's John Tavares fights for the puck with Ottawa's Jack Rodewald during the second period of the NHL pre-season game between the Maple Leafs and the Senators in Lucan, Ont., Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins

We got our first glimpse of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night as they took on the Ottawa Senators in their first game of the preseason in tiny Lucan, Ont., just north of London.

While not every player who is going to make up the 2018-19 edition of the blue and white played in the game (star forward Auston Matthews, for example, sat out) we did get to see newcomer John Tavares as well as Mitch Marner, Nazem Kadri and Morgan Reilly.

READ MORE: Tavares, Marner show instant chemistry as Leafs down Sens in pre-season game

Tavares scored twice in his Leafs debut to lead Toronto to a 4-1 win over Ottawa.

What was made abundantly clear, even with Toronto splitting its squad against the Senators — with the other half playing in Ottawa on Wednesday night — is that the Maple Leafs are loaded with talent.

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The rebuilding Sens, especially after trading captain Erik Karlsson to San Jose last week, don’t have anywhere near the number of skillful players Toronto has, and you can say that for many more teams in the National Hockey League.

READ MORE: Rick Zamperin: Auston Matthews on the cusp of superstardom

If teams are able to neutralize Toronto’s proposed top line of Matthews, Patrick Marleau and William Nylander (who remains unsigned), will they be able to shut down the second line of Tavares, Marner and Zach Hyman?

On most nights, the answer will be no.

Not since the days when Pat Quinn and before that Pat Burns was coaching the Maple Leafs has this team had the potential to go a long, long way in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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That’s just two of the many generations of fans that have been waiting, hoping, and praying that the franchise would once again reach this level of promise.

The preseason has just begun, the regular season starts in a couple of weeks and the Leafs — especially their rabid fanbase — are ready.

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