The 2020 Bucket Bracket Showdown: Play-in Round

By Ally Koss
In Ally Koss
Jul 22nd, 2020

The playoffs start a week from Saturday and will look a little bit different this year, but after a long (and I mean long) hiatus, hockey is finally back, giving us some small sense of normalcy in these crazy times. For those of you who enjoy our annual playoff posts of putting jerseys and masks head to head in each series, you’re in luck, because this year we get a bonus round, the 16 team best-of-five play-in round.

• More: The 2019 Bucket Bracket Showdown (Round 1)
• More: The 2018 Bucket Bracket Showdown (Round 1)
• More: The 2017 Bucket Bracket Showdown (Round 1)
• More: The 2016 Bucket Bracket Showdown (Round 1)
• More: The 2015 Bucket Bracket Showdown (Round 1)

Before we get to the conference quarterfinals, we’ll take a look at the masks in each play-in series, determining who would advance based on the presumed starting goaltenders’ mask art alone. With a best-of-five, there’s a smaller margin for error, so expect closer match ups and lots of upsets. We’ll keep these short and sweet, but shall we get started?

Eastern Conference

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Frederik Andersen (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart) vs. Joonas Korpisalo (Sylvie Marsolais, Sylabrush)

Two regular artists in our Bucket Bracket Showdown contests, Dave Gunnarsson’s latest mask for Frederik Andersen takes on Sylvie Marsolais’ design for Joonas Korpisalo. Andersen’s is yet another in the string of “Blue Knight” Lego Batman-inspired designs, this time stacking Legos on each side to form a wall, a creative take on the brick wall metaphor goaltenders so often opt for.

• More: HbD Interviews: Sylvie Marsolais
• More: HbD Interviews: Dave Gunnarsson

Across the ice, Korpi’s mask is all CBJ, including a dynamic Ohio state flag in front of a hyper-realistic cannon in the style Marsolais is known for. While the creative concept of Andersen’s might steal a game, ultimately the artistry in Korpisalo’s takes the cake.

Result: Blue Jackets in 4

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Montreal Canadiens

Matt Murray (Stephane Bergeron, Griff Airbrush) vs. Carey Price (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart)

Two goaltenders who don’t like to stray from tradition, Matt Murray will be facing off with Carey Price for a spot in the conference quarterfinals. Murray’s Griff Airbrush bucket is something we’re all used to seeing by now, a variation of his team Canada mask that Bergeron translated into the Penguins brand, and a design not dissimilar to what Murray’s worn since the beginning of his Penguins career.

Price, on the other hand, actually commissioned a somewhat flashy white and silver snakeskin-like bucket from Gunnarsson prior to the season’s start that generated quite a bit of buzz, but in games and recent practices he’s been opting for one of his 2018 designs, a red and white bucket with lace detail up the chin.

This one’s tough, because nothing is really *wrong* with either of these masks, but neither is particularly innovative or forward-thinking in its design. It’s a close call in a five-game series, but Price’s lace detailing gives Montreal the slight edge.

Result: Habs in 5

New York Islanders vs. Florida Panthers

Semyon Varlamov (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart) vs. Sergei Bobrovsky (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart)

Ah yes, our first Daveart vs. Daveart match up, a BBS tale as old as time…

This one is interesting, because despite Gunnarsson’s prolific and diverse body of work, these two masks are very similar in style.

Varlamov’s mask (one of two on the season), titled “Brooklyn / Long Island Hockey,” has many of the Daveart signature features, including light flares, holograms and layered textures. Bob’s 2020 bucket is similar, titled “Brick by Brick” and layering the Panthers’ alternate palm tree logo over a red and white brick backdrop, with the goaltender’s personal logo stenciled on the chin.

From a design standpoint, I’m not crazy about either of these masks. The bold typography on Varlamov’s is somewhat unique, but the busy special effects and somewhat bland compositions on both leave much to be desired form a cleanliness and legibility standpoint. It’s a close call, but ultimately the series goes to the Isles.

Result: Islanders in 5

Carolina Hurricanes vs. New York Rangers

Petr Mrazek (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart) vs. Henrik Lundqvist (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart)

In another all-Daveart showdown, we have two more masks that capture the style Gunnarsson’s become known for. In Carolina’s net, Mrazek’s “Canes 2.0” mask builds on the goaltender’s past buckets but now includes the diagonal wordmark from the team’s road sweaters (worth noting that Mrazek also has a black version with just the C on top).

For Lundqvist, one of the earliest adopters of a Daveart signature style, his 2019 iteration of “Rangers Razor” has somewhat of a different look, almost reminiscent of the Cageskinz decal used on Michael Hutchinson’s mask in Toronto. While comparisons to a sticker are usually not complimentary when it comes to custom paint jobs, the white space in this design actually allows the detail to breathe, in comparison to some of Hank’s past masks that are just far too congested to be able to appreciate the workmanship and detail in the design.

Result: Rangers in 4

Western Conference

Calgary Flames vs. Winnipeg Jets

David Rittich (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart) vs. Connor Hellebuyck (Steve Nash, Eyecandyair)

Don’t hurt ’em, Connor! Match ups like these almost make me feel a little bit bad to write about, because they’re such massive landslides.

To start with the victor, Hellebuyck consistently knocks it out of the park with stellar Eyecandyair masks, and this season was no exception. His heritage and Hockey Fights Cancer masks were *fire emoji* crispy as hell, and this regular season bucket isn’t too shabby itself. I love how sharp and clean all three of these designs are, and there’s really nothing I can pick out in any of them as a negative.

On the other hand, poor Rittich has a pile of crosshatching and holograms that just never stood a chance. If this series could be decided in 2, it probably would’ve been.

Result: Jets in 3

Edmonton Oilers vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Mike Smith (David Arrigo) vs. Corey Crawford (Stephane Bergeron, Griff Airbrush)

In another landslide match up, home ice gets the advantage for Mike Smith and his David Arrigo mask over Corey Crawford’s Griff Airbrush bucket. Now don’t get me wrong, Crawford has a perfectly fine mask. It earned a B in our preseason mask preview, a design that remained virtually unchanged from the netminder’s 2018-19 bucket.

• More: HbD Masks: 2019-20 Western Conference Bucket Preview

Crawford’s trouble begins when Mike Smith rolls out with not one, not *two*, but *three* graphic, crispy designs (with matching pads, might I add) that would frankly be tough for any goaltender in the league to compete with. Arrigo’s placement and execution of the Oilers logos on these really allow the beautiful typography to shine, and the simplified derricks up the center perfectly finish off the symmetrical designs.

Result: Oilers in 3

Vancouver Canucks vs. Minnesota Wild

Jacob Markstrom (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart) vs. Devan Dubnyk

This one’s an interesting match up, as one of these masks has yet to ever see game action. Jacob Markstrom has a long string of pretty stellar Daveart masks, but the latest was just completed in May after the season’s pause. Titled “Orca Oracle,” the entire mask is somewhat of an optical illusion, using swirled brush strokes combined with chrome paint to give the design a ton of movement.

Dubnyk on the other hand has had some questionable aesthetics grace his masks over the years, including cartoon giraffes and other creatures, but his latest is a more sophisticated upgrade (note: Dubnyk typically works with Gunnarsson as well, but we were unable to confirm that of his latest mask). The matte texture and “DD” lockup on the chin are nice elements, but in the end, Markstrom’s dazzling chrome takes the W in a sweep.

Result: Canucks in 3

Nashville Predators vs. Arizona Coyotes

Pekka Rinne (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart) vs. Antti Raanta (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart)

Closing out the play-in round is another classic all-Daveart battle by two of his long time clients, Pekka Rinne for Nashville versus Antti Raanta and the Coyotes. Rinne’s masks historically have gotten pretty tough critiques from us, often for being illegible and incredibly busy, and unfortunately “The Endgame Pred” isn’t much different. How Gunnarsson incorporated the eyes from the Predator logo gets creativity points, but overall there’s just far too much going on here.

Across the ice, Raanta’s mask borders on the opposite problem, a *very* simple composition, but one that’s packed full of special effects like holograms and snakeskin texture. Now maybe we’re biased because our own Kris Kern designed Raanta’s full setup, but the subtle detail in this mask makes for a more appealing and legible design than all of the competing elements in Rinne’s.

Result: Coyotes in 4

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram!

4 Responses to “The 2020 Bucket Bracket Showdown: Play-in Round”

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