The 2019 Bucket Bracket Showdown: The Finals
Well, we’ve made it to the end, but I’ll start off with the elephant in the room. If you’ve been following the Bucket Bracket Showdown throughout this year’s playoffs, you may have noticed that each post features a pair of goaltenders in the image at the top, while in this post, there’s just one. There’s been a peculiar trend of teams getting eliminated after being in the feature image, the Feature Image Curse™ if you will, so as a superstitious Bruins fan, I’m not taking any images by putting Tuukka up there. (Ed note: Not all of us are Bruins fans) Now, where were we…?
• More: The 2018 Bucket Bracket Showdown (The Finals)
• More: The 2017 Bucket Bracket Showdown (The Finals)
• More: The 2016 Bucket Bracket Showdown (The Finals)
• More: The 2015 Bucket Bracket Showdown (The Finals)
After starting the year dead last in the NHL standings, the Blues not only climbed their way back into the playoff race, but now find themselves in the Stanley Cup Final. Backstopped by Jordan Binnington, St. Louis is gearing up to take on the Bruins and Tuukka Rask, who has been nothing short of stellar all throughout the postseason.
We know how the goaltenders compare on the ice, but how do their masks stack up against each other? The better masks were 1-for-2 heading into the Cup Final, but now we’ll break down the final match up in detail, going through a head-to-head in composition, artistry, branding, innovation and intangibles to see who will be crowned our fifth ever Bucket Bracket champion.
Boston Bruins (A2) vs. St. Louis Blues (C3)
Tuukka Rask (Ron Slater, Slater Lettering & Graphics) vs. Jordan Binnington (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart)
When working on an oddly-shaped canvas like a goalie mask and considering not only how the design will be viewed up close, but from thousands of feet away, composition becomes an important tool in creating a successful and legible end design. For example, you’ve heard me gush all playoffs about the genius composition of Martin Jones’ mask, but how do Tuukka’s and Binnington’s compare?
• More: HbD Interviews: Ron Slater
Starting with Rask, artist Ron Slater incorporates a lot of detail in each of the main design elements, yet they all fit together pretty seamlessly. With the bear head on top and claws reaching over the spoked-Bs on the sides, the symmetry in this mask really helps to ground it and give some order to an otherwise busier composition. Keeping the color palette mostly monochromatic allows features like the bear’s red eyes, and white teeth and claws to really stand out, as well as giving the design some dimension.
On the flip side, Binnington’s Daveart mask has a surprisingly elementary composition. While most of Dave Gunnarsson’s work is hyper-detailed, none of the design elements on his mask for the Blues netminder interact with one another, which gives the composition a stiff, static feel. While symmetrical like Rask’s, Slater’s composition creates a dynamic flow throughout the design, and Binnington’s just doesn’t stack up.
Rask – 1
Binnington – 0
Artistry and Style
While the composition establishes the bones and structure of the design, the artistry is what gives a mask creative flair and its unique style. Seeing as masks can be so personal and are essentially commissioned works of art, the artistry is what sets a custom airbrushed bucket apart from one that’s, say, been wrapped with digitally printed decals.
There’s no denying the artistry in Tuukka’s bucket, as it’s since become a signature look for the netminder that’s undoubtedly his own. The lettering style on the chin is one that Slater is known for, and the stylized bear on top is skillfully executed in a way that feels bold and aggressive.
With Binnington’s mask, there’s also a level of artistry involved, particularly when we look at the detail inside the notes and the skyline in the background. That being said, for an artist with as strong a signature style as Gunnarsson, this mask feels oddly generic, like it could have been created by any artist for any goaltender. For that reason, St. Louis falls short in the artistry challenge, and Boston takes an early 2-0 lead.
Rask – 2
Binnington – 0
Use of Team Branding
Many goaltenders use their masks as a way to express their personal style or share messages that are meaningful to them, but team branding often plays a major role in the design as well. Leaning heavily into their respective teams’ visual identities, these two netminders exemplify that as much as anyone in the league today.
While Rask has created a personal style with his buckets, the designs have always been grounded in elements that connect back to the Bruins brand. The typography is really the only area that he strays in this sense, leveraging the bear mascot in the center and spoked-B logos on each side as the primary design elements.
Binnington too weighs heavily, if not almost entirely, on the St. Louis branding. The composition is made up entirely of Blues-centric imagery, from the music note logo repeated on the sides to the large “Blues” lettering stenciled on top. As I’ve mentioned in the earlier rounds, this mask is almost too brand-centric, as it feels void of any personal style or customization, however in this particular head-to-head of brand centricity, it gives Binnington the slight edge.
Rask – 2
Binnington – 1
The art of mask design has evolved drastically since the days when Gerry Cheevers created his iconic stitches design with simply a Sharpie. Whether it be color changing paint, 3D textures or holograms, artists continue to find new ways to push the envelope and develop new and exciting concepts for their goalie clients.
When it comes to most of these new special effects and paint techniques, neither of these goaltenders have really embraced anything wildly innovative or cutting edge. Ron Slater has hardly strayed from the design he first developed for Tuukka when the goaltender first arrived in Boston, telling us “part of me wants to do something different for him, but I think he’s kind of superstitious about stuff and doesn’t want a change either.” The gold leaf used in the bear and holographic foil in the eyes and typography do set the design apart from a more standard paint job, but the innovation factor isn’t anything we haven’t seen before.
• More: HbD Interviews: Dave Gunnarsson
Across the ice, Dave Gunnarsson, usually the king of special effects, actually showed some restraint in not pulling out all the stops for Binnington’s mask. While he does incorporate some of his signature effects like 4D raised elements and the sketch pen technique, the overall design still feels generic. While other Daveart masks really allow these effects to shine, they unfortunately fail to take the spotlight in Binnington’s bucket, so Rask’s shiny gold gets the win.
Rask – 3
Binnington – 1
It seems fitting that in a postseason full of sweeps that this match up would be somewhat of a landslide. While the last two Bucket Bracket Showdown champions were decided by the intangibles, Rask comes into this round with a commanding 3-1 lead, and his stranglehold over Binnington is only about to get tighter.
Binnington may have taken the battle of branding, but comparing the overall aesthetic value of these masks side by side, it’s pretty clear that Rask’s is the winner. With its strong signature style and dynamic composition, say hello to your fifth BBS champion, Tuukka Rask!
Rask – 4
Binnington – 1