Cup Scouting Report: Wild

The Wild are back in the playoffs, but must face the West's best. Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Craig Custance chats with rival scouts and players to break down the strengths and weaknesses of the Minnesota Wild.

The Wild made it much more interesting than they might have preferred, but the bottom line is Minnesota is in the playoffs, an absolutely critical part of their development as a franchise.

Guys such as Ryan Suter and Zach Parise know what it's like to battle in the postseason. Now comes important development time for Minnesota's collection of young talent.

"After four years of missing the playoffs, you've got to get in there and taste it and see what it's like and experience those types of games," Parise told reporters after the Wild's playoff-clinching win over the Avalanche. "It's different than the regular season."

The reward is a playoff series against the best team in hockey, but a defensive-minded Wild team with high-end skill players are capable of pushing Chicago more than the typical No. 8 seed.

"We have to make sure we're smart without the puck," Parise said. "If we play well defensively, [we'll] see what happens."

KEY STRENGTH: "They've got three very good lines up front, offensive lines," said a veteran defenseman. "They came out really, really hard on us ... really forechecked us hard. We didn't do a great job of handling that."