Sabres Bruins HockeyBOSTON — It’s rare in this era of professional sports, where free agency and marketing campaigns rule the world, to find a team truly connected to the city it calls “home.” But the Bruins’ connection to Boston is one of the strongest across all of sports.

That was no more evident than last April, when two explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon literally and figuratively shook the foundation of the proud city. The Bruins quickly responded both publicly and privately, as they visited victims, honored first responders and paid tribute to those lives that were lost.

One year later, that fateful day and those that followed still stand out to the Bruins, who are preparing to start their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series Friday at TD Garden.

“I really couldn’t believe it,” Bruins winger Brad Marchand recalled Tuesday after practice. “I didn’t know what to do. It was really kind of you go in shock and everything’s a blur. Obviously, with how tragic things were and how upset, you feel helpless and you want to be able to do something, but there wasn’t a whole lot to do. It was just a very, very sad moment.”

In the days that followed, the entire city and community came together as part of the grieving and eventual healing processes. The Bruins were the first professional sports team to return to work — another important step in trying to return to something resembling normalcy.

“I think it’s been well-advertised to start with,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien. “Anyone who doesn’t realize this is the anniversary isn’t paying attention. It’s got some good and got some bad obviously. It’s sad what happened, but I just look at how this city came together and just how everybody helped each other and did everything they could to help one another. So that’s what kind of sticks in my mind.”

Out of the bombing and the tributes that followed, a sense of connection to the city from the Bruins was undeniable. It takes a special kind of makeup to embrace that responsibility, and the Bruins certainly were ready to do that. That connection was documented in Tuesday’s edition of The Boston Globe, where Bruins players Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron were one of many in a powerful tribute photo on the newspaper’s front page.

“I’m not born and raised in Boston,” Chara said, “but I pretty much feel like I’m part of the city and I’ve been here for long enough to part of it. I’m always going to call myself a Bostonian.

“It’s just one of those things that feels like it is a home. Once you establish yourself in the city, you try to respect the city and what it represents. I’m very humbled to say this is one of my homes. I’m very honored and proud to be in the picture.”

Chara isn’t alone in the Bruins’ dressing room when it comes to having pride about living in or around the city. Many Bruins are active members of the community in the face of tragedy or not, but it’s clear the events of one year ago Tuesday brought them all even closer to the Hub.

“I’m not from here, a lot of the guys aren’t, but after everything that happened, the city’s like a big family now,” Marchand said. “You see how close everyone is. Everywhere you go, you see someone who’s been touched by it.

“I think everyone’s just grown from everything that’s happened. It’s very tragic, but it has brought everyone a lot closer. With how the Red Sox won last year and how we had a long run, it just seemed liked everyone was just able to lift each other up and find strength to carry on and be better. It just shows why Boston is such an incredible city.”