BROSSARD, Quebec -- Much of the Montreal Canadiens' success this season was based on two rookie forwards making a smooth adjustment to the rigors of the NHL.
Jarred Tinordi, however, didn't have that luxury.
The 6-foot-6 defenseman was called up from Hamilton of the American Hockey League on April 24 following Montreal's fifth loss in six games, a stretch when the team allowed 23 goals, including 10 power-play goals on 27 chances.
Rather than ease Tinordi into an important role, he was asked to right a sinking ship.
"I've always believed in life you have to learn how to walk before you can run," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said Saturday. "Let's say we're asking them to walk a little faster now."
Tinordi's arrival had an instant impact, helping Montreal win the final two games of the regular season and splitting the opening two games of its Eastern Conference quarterfinals series against the Ottawa Senators.
Game 3 of the best-of-7 series is in Ottawa on Sunday night (7 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS, NBCSN).
"I feel good right now, I feel confident in my game," Tinordi said. "The last two games of the regular season definitely got me ready to play playoff hockey."
The word Therrien consistently uses when asked to describe Tinordi is "presence," as in a physical one.
He's been used on the team's third pairing with veteran Francis Bouillon at even strength and on the penalty kill, a unit that has not allowed a goal since Tinordi's arrival. His tremendous reach and ability to battle forwards below the goal line have had an impact.
"Penalty kill is a big part of my game," Tinordi said. "It's something I take a lot of pride in."
The comparisons to Tinordi's father Mark are obvious. Mark Tinordi spent 663 NHL games largely with the Minnesota North Stars and Washington Capitals punishing opposing forwards, a stay-at-home defenseman who was, to employ Therrien's favorite term, a presence.
"I definitely try to take some aspects of his game," Jarred said of his father. "I think the game was a little bit different back then when he played. He was definitely a tough, big, mean defenseman. That's something I look up to. I wish I could have seen him play more when I was younger."
Tinordi, 21, was one of three young defensemen the Canadiens called up over the course of the season to give them a taste of the NHL, playing six games from March 16 to March 27 before being sent back to Hamilton.
Tinordi said the main thing he was told to work on in the minors was his aggression and assertiveness, and he has been noticeably better in both areas since coming back to Montreal.
"My first time around I was playing not to make mistakes, I was playing a little hesitant that way," he said. "This time around I made up my mind that this is a great opportunity to come up with two games left and get a chance to play in the playoffs. I just wanted to give it everything I had."
The main reason for the second call-up was the Canadiens' inability to adequately fill the gaping hole left by the season-ending knee injury to Alexei Emelin on April 6. Emelin was a key contributor on the penalty kill and Montreal's most physical defenseman, and Tinordi has filled those roles admirably thus far.
"My first time around I was playing not to make mistakes, I was playing a little hesitant that way. This time around I made up my mind that this is a great opportunity to come up with two games left and get a chance to play in the playoffs. I just wanted to give it everything I had."
-- Canadiens rookie D-man Jarred Tinordi
"The loss of Emelin opened a window for him," Therrien said. "This [call-up] wasn't for his development. This was an opportunity. So I told him to take advantage of this opportunity.
"We're seeing a totally different young man. He arrived here with a confidence he didn't have his first time around."
Tinordi's teammates have been equally impressed with his play.
"I think he's an outstanding hockey player that's just going to keep getting better and better," defenseman Josh Gorges said. "You can't teach 6-6, but when you have a guy that is that size and can move like he moves, it makes him a dangerous player. Most guys at that size, they give up mobility, they give up skating. He doesn't."
As the series with the Senators increases in intensity, Tinordi may be called upon to use those unteachable physical tools more and more.
He's ready for it.
"As the playoffs come around the games get a lot more physical," he said. "I think I try to step up in that department."