The 2020 Bucket Bracket Showdown: Conference Semifinals
What started as a 24-team field is now down to eight, which means we no longer get all day hockey marathons, and frankly I’m a little bummed about it. One perk of this chaotic format though is that without the usual logistics-juggling of arena availability, travel and ticket sales, we were able to dive directly into the conference semifinals with no days sans-hockey. I believe this is what the kids would call #blessed.
This round has brought some new surprises in the mask department, with Phillip Grubauer’s injury in game one, Ben Bishop still being “unfit to play,” and the surprising departures of recent Cup champions, the St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals.
To mix things up, my esteemed colleague Kris Kern will be making some of the picks in this round, so keep reading to see which buckets we chose to advance to the Conference Finals!
Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Islanders
Carter Hart (Fran Drummond, Paintzoo) vs. Semyon Varlamov (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart)
Kris: In our previous bucket bracket match ups, Hart advanced in the Quarters while Varlamov won his match up in the Qualifiers, but fell in a close six game match up in the Qualifying round. For the Semifinals, these two go head-to-head donning masks that both feature highly detailed airbrush work that’s better viewed up-close than from far away.
On Hart’s Paintzoo mask, greyscale portraits are anchored by orange and black trim. Varlamov’s Daveart mask attempts a bold take on typography that’s surrounded by multiple layers of color, effects and graphic textures. This particular match up is a close one, with emphasis being placed on different elements within each mask. Hart’s mask offers up more personal touches, but fails to take advantage of an orange, black and white color palette that typically has the ability to create a high-contrast, striking design when utilized correctly. To that contrast, Varlamov’s mask is much more colorful and bold and uses typography as the dominant graphic element, but it doesn’t quite capture any personality of the goaltender.
This one goes the distance, and while neither mask is particularly ground-breaking, Varlamov edges out the victory because I’m pretty much a sucker for anything typography related.
Result: Islanders in 7
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Boston Bruins
Andrei Vasilevskiy (Sylvie Marsolais, Sylabrush) vs. Jaroslav Halak (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart)
Ally: In probably the most anticipated (and terrifying as a Bruins fan, to be honest) match up of this year’s playoffs, Vezina finalist Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Tampa Bay Lightning, just one season removed from winning the Presidents Trophy, take on this year’s President Trophy winners in the Boston Bruins, now backstopped by Jaro Halak.
• More: HbD Interviews: Sylvie Marsolais
Now these two masks couldn’t be more different in style, yet both show off the quintessential styles of their respective artists. Starting with Vasilevskiy’s, Marsolais is a master of crisp lines and black and gray realism, and here she flawlessly merges the two. The mask almost has a collage feel, with the soft shaded lettering popping off the rich blue backdrop.
Across the ice, Halak’s mask could be described as somewhat patchwork as well, but Gunnarsson used a stone motif to construct the spoked B logos on each side. Is it well executed? Yes. Is it detailed? Of course. But the dynamic composition and level of artistry in Vasilevskiy’s takes the cake.
Result: Lightning in 5
Vegas Golden Knights vs. Vancouver Canucks
Robin Lehner (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart) vs. Jacob Markstrom (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart)
Ally: Remember some of those earlier series where one mask just mopped the floor with the other? Well folks, we have another, and ironically in an all-Daveart showdown. You’d expect when comparing work by the same artist that there would be more similarities in style, execution or overall aesthetic, right? While Gunnarsson’s skill clearly shows through in both these masks, design-wise they couldn’t be more different.
• More: HbD Interviews: Dave Gunnarsson
As I mentioned in the last round, Lehner’s mask just has way too much going on. There’s a panda, a knight, emotive masks… and all without enough contrast to really differentiate one design element from the other. Markstrom on the other hand has a really unique and almost futuristic look with the full chrome paint job and dynamic brush strokes.
The eye-catching chrome combined with the minimalist legibility of Markstrom’s is a runaway train in this series, taking the win over Vegas with a sweep.
Result: Canucks in 4
Colorado Avalanche vs. Dallas Stars
Pavel Francouz (Bohumil Korál, Koral Design) vs. Anton Khudobin (Sylvie Marsolais, Sylabrush)
Kris: This series has quickly become a case study for the benefits of a solid goaltending duo. A great goalie tandem is not only beneficial in terms of giving the coach the flexibility in playing the hot hand in the playoffs (see, Vegas), but it also allows a team to absorb an injury and start a #2 goalie that can still give their respective team a chance to win.
Khudobin took over the crease for Dallas in the previous round and it appears to be his for the long-haul as Ben Bishop’s status is murky at best. “Dobby” sports a mask painted by Sylvie Marsolais that features the Dallas skyline, branding elements of the Stars and an illustration of Harry Potter’s Dobby character. Pop culture crossovers are always welcome in a good mask design, but as a non-fan of Harry Potter lore, this one was a little obscure (cue the anger of Harry Potter fans around the world).
The Avs are in a similar situation, with Grubauer going down in game 1 of the series with a leg injury that didn’t look too great. While the standard “unfit to play” has been applied, all signs point to Colorado’s #1 netminder on the sidelines for a bit. Cue Pavel Francouz and his very team-issued looking Avalanche mask. The Koral Design mask features Avs logos/colors and mountain skyline imagery. While it gets some points for simplicity and some well-executed bold striping along the bottom edge, overall it’s very straight-forward design that could be worn by any goalie that straps on the pads for Colorado.
Overall, Khudobin’s mask shows off a little more of personality with the quirky adoption of the “Dobby” moniker, with virtually all other design features being similar between the two masks.
Result: Stars in 6