The 2020 Bucket Bracket Showdown: Conference Finals
After a wild conference semifinal round featuring three game sevens, we’re down to the final four. You could say the last round was somewhat of a bracket buster, eliminating the top seeded Flyers in the east, and seeing the Stanley Cup-favorite Avalanche bounced by the Dallas Stars.
With the unpredictability of players being “unfit to play” and the compressed schedule, this year’s playoffs has been one of goaltending tandems, but Kris and I will be breaking down each conference’s bucket match up based on the presumed “starters” in each series. Who are our picks to advance to the Cup final of masks? Let’s find out!
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Islanders
Andrei Vasilevskiy (Sylvie Marsolais, Sylabrush) vs. Semyon Varlamov (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart)
Ally: Now that we’ve reached the conference finals, both series bring us a head-to-head battle of two of the heaviest hitters in mask design today: Dave Gunnarsson and Sylvie Marsolais. While most teams have leveraged goaltending tandems in this postseason, Tampa Bay has relied on Vasilevskiy to carry the full load, including a Vezina-worthy series against the Boston Bruins. Vasilevskiy’s Sylabrush mask showcases the best of Marsolais’ artistry, combining soft realism in the lion on top with sharp, clean elements like the chrome lightning bolts and crisp typography. The monochromatic color palette helps unite the design, establishing a common thread throughout the variety of styles and painterly effects.
• More: HbD Interviews: Sylvie Marsolais
Like his competitor’s, Varlamov’s mask also characterizes the trademark style of his artist, including signature Daveart holograms, glitter, and retro paint effects. Backdropped by celestial navy negative space, the primary design elements are a stark white Islander logo on top balanced by white block lettering on the sides. Gunnarsson ties in the orange from the Islanders brand with flaming accents around the typography.
While Gunnarsson’s approach to the typography makes for a very legible design, the overall composition is pretty basic and doesn’t bring much to the table from an innovation or creativity standpoint. The legibility and skillful execution steal the Islanders a game, but the diverse styles and dynamic composition of Vasilevskiy’s gets Tampa the win.
Result: Tampa Bay in 5
Vegas Golden Knights vs. Dallas Stars
Robin Lehner (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart) vs. Anton Khudobin (Sylvie Marsolais, Sylabrush)
Kris: We’ll head out West where Khudobin earned his first career postseason shutout in Game 1 to give the Stars the early 1-0 series lead. While MAF got the start in net for the Knights in Game 1, expect to see Lehner get the majority of starts during the series.
These masks are very similar in theme/concept as both utilize branding elements from their respective teams intertwined with personal nicknames and imagery. The differences are the details and the executions. Highly skilled artistry is exhibited by both mask artists with each taking a different creative approach. Khudobin’s mask is a little more traditional with Marsolais’ airbrush style and gloss finish, while Lehner’s paint work features Gunnarsson’s sketch look with more of a subtle matte finish.
• More: HbD Interviews: Dave Gunnarsson
Lehner’s mask, however, goes beyond a catchy nickname as he once again features artwork that chronicles his personal story and features the #SameHere hashtag as a way to show support for others that have faced challenges of their own. The artwork itself has a style that hearkens to illustrations found in graphic novels, and it works very well for that reason. The primary challenge with Lehner’s mask is the number of competing elements. On their own they are all unique portrayals that do a great job in representing Lehner, but on the mask they compete for hierarchy and clarity when combined into one design. This is where Khudobin’s execution has a slight advantage: simplicity.
As mentioned, the overall concept is very similar, but in Dobby’s mask there aren’t as many different elements, which allows for a little more visual separation and increased clarity of design. This is a tough head-to-head match up that will ultimately go the distance.
Result: Stars in 7