The 2021 Bucket Bracket Showdown: The Finals
In a David-versus-Goliath match up in the most literal sense, the defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning are facing the 16th seeded Canadiens in a Cup final that literally no one saw coming.
Despite the Carey Price factor and some high-flying young talent, Tampa took game one with ease, skating to a 5-1 victory over Montreal on home ice. While the Bolts may be heavy favorites to take this series, which team’s goaltender would win the ultimate battle of mask supremacy?
After losing in a close battle to Anton Khudobin in last year’s BBS final, Vasilevskiy is back to seek revenge and claim a mask title for himself. But if Price has anything to say about it, it won’t be easy. Both these masks are painted by talented artists and pass the eye test of overall aesthetics, so we’ll dig into specific attributes of each bucket’s design to get to the bottom of which reigns supreme.
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Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Carey Price (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart) vs. Andrei Vasilevskiy (Sylvie Marsolais, Sylabrush)
Dave Gunnarsson and Sylvie Marsolais are two of the most prolific and skilled mask artists in the game today. Working with collectively an estimated 60-70% of the league’s goaltenders (plus more in Europe, college, etc.), these two artists know their shit and can produce solid, solid work.
• More: HbD Interviews: Sylvie Marsolais
When it comes to composition, Marsolais is more often the stronger artist, creating work that’s complex and interesting, yet always legible. As for Gunnarsson’s work, his 2021 mask for Price is actually far more compositionally sound than what we typically see from the artist, who’s known for his special effect-packed work that sometimes borders on chaotic.
Price’s mask uses symmetry and the bold lines of the Canadiens’ logo to create a graphic and clean composition that’s easy to read and well balanced. Gunnarsson of course threw in some of his signature touches like tiny holographic logos and light flares for visual interest, but the overall structure of the design is very sound.
Across the ice, Vasilevskiy’s mask has a much more complex composition, layering elements like typography, a realistic lion face and lightning bolts to create a design that’s interesting yet still legible. Because of the higher level of difficulty and flawless execution on the composition of Vasilevskiy’s, a piece that could’ve easily gone awry, he takes the first point for composition.
Price – 0
Vasilevskiy – 1
Artistry and Style
Marsolais and Gunnarsson have very different styles when it comes to artistry and design, but they’ve each managed to work their respective clients’ personal preferences into their work.
Starting with Price, excluding the outlier of the wild J Bo Airbrush mask he sported earlier this season, the goaltender generally keeps to a pretty traditional and brand-centric design with his buckets. This year’s iteration, titled “Price Vintage Art,” is no exception, keeping with a bold yet traditional look that’s all Habs, somewhat reminiscent of Patrick Roy’s iconic Canadiens mask.
Marsolais’ design for Vasilevskiy injects more of the goaltender’s personality with elements like the lion on top (representing his nickname “Big Cat”) and the Russian Coat of Arms, but the way in which the artist pulls these elements together is really exceptional. We already talked about the composition being complex but well balanced, but Marsolais also mixes a number of different artistic styles in this mask, from hyper realism and soft shading, to bold typography and fine detail.
While there’s something to be said about the classic minimalism of Price’s mask, Vasilevskiy’s gives more opportunity to show off the artist’s skill, giving Tampa a quick 2-0 lead.
Price – 0
Vasilevskiy – 2
Use of Team Branding
This one’s probably the most obvious difference between these two masks; while Price’s uses overt branding as the primary design elements, Vasilevskiy’s has more subtle nods to the Tampa Bay brand, with things like color and lightning bolts dispersed throughout.
• More: HbD Interviews: Dave Gunnarsson
Not to discredit the work Marsolais has done to incorporate the Lightning brand into her client’s mask – the palm trees on the sides and typography literally spelling out the team’s name very much say Bolts, but Price’s bucket is all Habs. One of the best and most iconic logos in the league, Gunnarsson scales and uses the logo in both 1C and full color variations to make for an interesting and layered composition with a single design element. The tiny holographic logos throughout add further depth and dimension, and it’d be tough to argue that this bucket captured anything other than the Habs brand.
Price – 1
Vasilevskiy – 2
With an industry dominated by only a handful of artists and only 70 or so (often superstitious) clients across the league, coming up with new ways to innovate mask design is a challenge for even the most skillful painters. Glowing and temperature-sensitive paint have made waves in recent years, both Gunnarsson and Marsolais being early adopters, but which goaltender from this year’s final has the more innovative mask?
If we define innovation as “a new idea, method, or device,” or “the introduction of something new,” according to Merriam-Webster, it’s easy to see how Gunnarsson uses innovative techniques in Price’s mask. While this may not be the most tricked out Daveart bucket we’ve seen, there are some subtle effects here that we’ve come to associate with Gunnarsson that are more innovative than a standard 2D paint job.
First, let’s talk about the holograms. Gunnarsson uses this technique quite a bit in his work, and often it looks too busy or overwhelming, but his application on Price’s mask is actually quite nice. Helping balance with the simpler composition, the innovative paint techniques add visual interest and depth to the mask.
As for Vasilevskiy, we’ve seen Marsolais create color changing buckets for him in the past, including his black third jersey mask this season, but seeing as the Sub Zero paint wasn’t used on the primary mask in question, Price is going to take this one and tie the series at two a side.
Price – 2
Vasilevskiy – 2
Heading into the final stanza of our 2021 showdown knotted at two, this match up will come down the intangibles; elements that may not fall into any of the above buckets, or even be easy to quantify, but that complete a design and make it great – the zhuzh, if you will.
Both of these masks are quite nice and meet the general criteria for a successful design – legible, clearly branded, and well balanced – but when it comes to creativity and complexity, Vasilevskiy has to get an extra boost here. A less skillful artist could have turned this concept into a big ol’ mess given the number of styles and elements present, but Marsolais’ beautiful execution and how she brings cohesion to a variety of unrelated pieces gets Tampa Bay the ultimate W.
Congrats, Vasy – hoist that trophy high!
Price – 2
Vasilevskiy – 3