The 2019 Bucket Bracket Showdown: Conference Semifinals

By Ally Koss
In Ally Koss
Apr 25th, 2019
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Is your bracket busted yet? Ours isn’t, at least not when it comes to masks. The first round was full of upsets on the ice, with the top seeds in each conference being eliminated for the first time ever in NHL history, but luckily for us, some great buckets advanced on to the second round to battle it out for a trip to the Conference Finals.

• More: The 2018 Bucket Bracket Showdown (Round 2)
• More: The 2017 Bucket Bracket Showdown (Round 2)
• More: The 2016 Bucket Bracket Showdown (Round 2)
• More: The 2015 Bucket Bracket Showdown (Round 2)

If you haven’t already, take a look at our picks from round one to see which bucket winners moved on, and then keep reading to see who prevails in round two.

So let’s dive right in, shall we?

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins (A2) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (WC2)

Tuukka Rask (Ron Slater, Slater Lettering and Graphics) vs. Sergei Bobrovsky (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart)

Just as everyone predicted, Tuukka Rask and the Boston Bruins eliminated the Leafs in 7 games to take on… wait, Columbus? After upsetting Tampa Bay in a 4 game sweep, Bobrovsky and the Blue Jackets are ready to take on Boston. But while Rask’s bucket beat out Freddie Andersen’s in the first round, how does it stack up against Bob’s?

• More: HbD Interviews: Ron Slater

Despite working with different artists, Rask with Ron Slater and Bobrovsky with Dave Gunnarsson, both of these goaltenders have continued to take a very team-centric approach to their mask designs. Rask has been the picture of consistency, sticking with the same gold-trimmed bear design year after year. While the excitement factor has somewhat faded from this design, given that we’ve been seeing it every season for the last decade or so, it’s still super dynamic and eye catching. Slater does a good job of creating dimension with the logos and claws on each side, and the detail in the muzzle and teeth of the bear.

Across the ice, Bobrovsky’s bucket is equally on brand but lacks the same dynamism as Rask’s. The predominantly red design includes cannon logos on each side and Bob’s personal logo on the chin, a composition that feels a bit static and generic. While both goaltenders’ masks fit well with their team’s brand and signature look, Rask takes the cake in style points.

Result: Bruins in 5

New York Islanders (M2) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (WC1)

Robin Lehner (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart) vs. Petr Mrazek (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart)

Next up in the Eastern Conference we have the Penguins and Capitals Islanders and Hurricanes in a battle of Cinderella stories. No one expected Robin Lehner and the Islanders to even make the playoffs, let alone sweep Pittsburgh in the first round, and Carolina has continued to ride the Mrazek Miracle™ all the way past the defending champs and into the conference semis.

• More: HbD Masks: 2018-19 Eastern Conference Preview

Now both of these goaltenders (along with about half the NHL) work with the same artist, but their masks are wildly different in concept and in execution, so let’s start with Lehner’s. As outlined in our preseason mask preview, this design has a lot of heavy meaning and depth, illustrating the goaltender’s battle with mental illness and how he’s come out the other side.

Designed in all gray, Gunnarsson used a sketch pen technique to create gritty illustrations of the Islanders’ Captain Gorton logo in front of a sunrise, with an eerie multi-headed demon and prison bars above, representing Lehner’s struggles with Bipolar disorder. “The most important part of mask is the sides,” Gunnarsson shared. “There is the sun at dawn, describing the start of the new life for Robin when he decided to seek help for himself.”

Mrazek’s mask on the other hand, is straightforward and team-centric, earning a solid B in our preseason preview. Unlike his opponent’s (and frankly much of Gunnarsson’s work), the composition is bold, simple, and immediately recognizable, which is a quality that in my opinion is quite underrated when it comes to masks. Despite the legibility and team focus, the evocative illustrations and uniqueness of Lehner’s mask still edge out Mrazek and move the Isles into the next round.

Result: Islanders in 6

Western Conference

St. Louis Blues (C3) vs. Dallas Stars (WC2)

Jordan Binnington (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart) vs. Ben Bishop (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart)

With many of the big guns also eliminated out west, St. Louis and Dallas are set to face off in the second round. Coming off a 6-game upset of the Winnipeg Jets, Jordan Binnington and his Daveart bucket (that we picked to get swept by Connor Hellebuyck’s Eyecandyair mask, by the way) take on another Daveart client in Ben Bishop.

• More: HbD Interviews: Dave Gunnarsson

As we talked about in the first round, Binnington’s mask doesn’t give us a lot to critique from a style standpoint. Unlike most of Gunnarsson’s flashy, more unique work, this design is about as generic as they come, almost like a collectible the team would sell online. For a rookie goaltender, we’ll cut Binnington some slack, as some goalies take time to find their signature style, but this design leaves much to be desired.

On the flip side, Ben Bishop has done a great job of establishing a signature style for himself that’s evolved over time. His most recent mask, titled “High Voltage,” is a great evolution from the glowing bucket that won him the inaugural BBS crown in 2015 (hey, there’s a poster for that!). Keeping the signature look from his days in Tampa Bay but evolving the color palette and design elements to adapt to the Dallas brand, Bishop’s recent string of masks beats Binnington’s by a landslide.

Result: Stars in 4

San Jose Sharks (P3) vs. Colorado Avalanche (WC1)

Martin Jones (Steve Nash, Eyecandyair) vs. Philipp Grubauer (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart)

Well whaddya know, another pair of unlikely masks who surprised us with a second round appearance… After a wild game 7 victory over Vegas, Martin Jones and the Sharks advanced to play Colorado, who eliminated the top team in the west, the Calgary Flames, in stunning fashion. The Avs have given the nod to Phillipp Grubauer in net throughout the first round, so let’s see how his mask stacks up against former BBS champ Martin Jones’.

• More: HbD Masks: 2018-19 Western Conference Preview

If you read round one of our preseason mask preview, it’s no secret that Martin Jones’ Eyecandyair bucket is a friggin’ beauty. Steve Nash is a wizard with both composition and execution, leaving few flaws to find in this mask, top to bottom. While it appears to be a pretty simple look at first glance, everything about the way this mask is designed is just smart, and it’s hard to overstate how much skill and consideration that takes.

Grubauer’s mask, titled “Desolation of Grubi” pulled inspiration from the Colorado Rockies for the goaltender’s first season with the Avalanche. Scoring a B in our preseason mask preview, this bucket scored points for it’s bold lines and large fields of solid color, which helps add legibility in such a detailed design. Despite the creativity and detail in Grubauer’s bucket, Jones’ is too much to overtake, and the Sharks get the series W.

Result: Sharks in 5

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook! And don’t forget, we’re now on Instagram too.

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