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Blackhawks vs. Ducks: Who has the edge?

Blackhawks' Patrick Sharp on learning from past playoff games.

The Blackhawks and Ducks begin their best-of-seven Western Conference finals Sunday. Who has the edge?

Offense: Led by Patrick Kane (seven goals, eight assists) and Jonathan Toews (four, seven), the Hawks' top two lines were very effective against the Wild in the second round. By jumping into the play, defenseman Duncan Keith (two, eight) helped the Hawks post four goals in three of the four games against the Wild. Now would be a good time for Bryan Bickell to regain his past postseason scoring touch as the winger has yet to find the back of the net.

The Ducks are averaging more than a goal per game than they did during the regular season behind the dynamic duo of first-liners Corey Perry (seven, eight) and Ryan Getzlaf (two, 10). Matt Beleskey (five goals), Ryan Kesler (four) and Patrick Maroon (four) provide depth across the top two lines but the Ducks haven't gotten much production out of bottom two.

Edge: Blackhawks

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Defense: The loss of Michal Rozsival to a season-ending ankle injury will test the Hawks' depth on the blue line. David Rundblad will take his place, but expect coach Joel Quenneville to lean heavily on Keith, who is having a Conn Smythe-worthy postseason thus far, Brent Seabrook, Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson to get the job done.

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The Ducks rank second in the league by allowing just 2.00 goals per game during the playoffs. They have three solid if not spectacular pairings and the Hawks' speed will provide a big challenge. Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said the Hawks are, "overall, probably the fastest team in the NHL" and the Anaheim blue liners will look to slow them down coming into the offensive zone.

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Edge: Blackhawks

Special teams: A healthy and high-flying Kane has jump-started the Hawks' power play. The flashy winger is equally adept at creating scoring chances for both himself and his teammates and the Hawks' success rate with a man advantage has risen from 17.6 percent in the regular season to 20.0 in the playoffs. Toews, Keith, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa give the Hawks plenty of weapons.

The penalty kill is still a work-in-progress for the Hawks. After halting opponents' man advantages at an 83.4 percent pace in the regular season, the Hawks rank 12th in the playoffs at 72.7. Clearing the crease of Ducks will be critical for the Hawks as Anaheim will look to use its size to create traffic and screen goaltender Corey Crawford.

Getzlaf, Perry and Beleskey each have two power-play goals as the Ducks have been terrific on the power play. They top the league with a terrific 31.0 success rate in the playoffs after finishing 28th during the regular season at 15.7 percent. Defenseman Sami Vatanen displays a knack for finding shooting lanes and then the Ducks crash the net.

The penalty kill has been a strong suit for the Ducks with Getzlaf, Kesler, Francois Beauchemin, Andrew Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg putting in yeoman's duty. Anaheim ranks fifth in the NHL with an 87.1 percent kill rate during the playoffs. That is up from 81.0 percent (15th in the NHL) during the regular season.

Edge: Ducks

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Goaltending: After temporarily losing his starting job to Scott Darling during the Hawks' first-round series against the Predators, Corey Crawford was solid—and sometimes spectacular—in leading the way to the four-game sweep of the Wild. The veteran appears to be hitting his stride and is poised and confident heading into the conference finals.

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At 6-foot-3, 236 pounds, Frederik Andersen is a big goalie with some equally big numbers this postseason, including a .925 save percentage and 1.96 goals-against average. The conference finals mark the biggest stage the Denmark native will have appeared in during his two seasons in the NHL — and experience in pressure situations could be a factor.

Edge: Blackhawks

Chris Kuc's prediction: Both teams are undefeated at home during the playoffs and while the Ducks have home-ice advantage, the well-rested and healthy Hawks aren't intimidated at the Honda Center where they went 2-0 during the regular season. The Ducks will put up a fight, but the Hawks are hitting on all cylinders and will march to the Stanley Cup Final.

Blackhawks in 6

Twitter @ChrisKuc

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