The 2022 Bucket Bracket Showdown: Round 1
For all you fellow mask nerds out there, our favorite time of year is back – it’s time for the eighth annual installment of the Bucket Bracket Showdown, where we look at the starting goaltenders’ masks in each series and predict a winner based on mask art alone.
I know we’re a little delayed, but between injuries and subpar play, it’s been a wild carousel of goalies for us to keep track of (plus, I would not recommend moving the same week that the playoffs start, but the NHL did not consult me on the schedule).
Anyway, as a reminder, each mask will be evaluated on artistry, creativity, legibility, use of team branding, and overall aesthetic value. The first round is always a lengthy one, so without further adieu, let’s dive in!
Florida Panthers vs. Washington Capitals
Sergei Bobrovsky (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart) vs. Vitek Vanecek (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart)
In our first match up, Sergei Bobrovsky and the Presidents Trophy-winning Panthers take on the Caps and Vitek Vanecek, who will likely tag-team in net this postseason with Ilya Samsonov. Both these goaltenders, like the majority of their peers in this playoff field, are Daveart clients, but let’s start with Bob.
Bobrovsky’s mask has been pretty consistent since his days in Columbus, using a somewhat cliched brick wall motif overlaid with his team’s branding. Meanwhile, Vanecek’s mask too has stayed fairly similar year over year, changing up his 2020-21 design only in color, but keeping the composition consistent.
• More: HbD Interviews: Dave Gunnarsson
Both these masks have very similar feels, mainly due to their teams’ red and blue color palettes, as well as having been created by the same artist, but while neither blows me away, Vanecek is going to get the slight edge due to the bold pattern created by the stars along the chin. Nothing in Bob’s mask stands out to this degree, so the Caps take the series by a slim margin.
Result: Caps in 7
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Jack Campbell (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart) vs. Andrei Vasilevskiy (Sylvie Marsolais, Sylabrush)
As Kris pointed out in his round 1 uniform countdown, the identical color palettes in the Leafs-Lightning series (plus alliteration!) makes it difficult to dissect visually:
It’s unfortunately going to look like an inter-squad scrimmage. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, consider the Maple Leafs flattered.
Both Jack Campbell and Andrei Vasilevskiy sport cobalt and white masks that from a distance, honestly probably look identical, but let’s take a closer look (since that is what we do here, after all).
Campbell has stuck with his Daveart mask from 2020, titled “Leafs Style” that is about as basic conceptually as you can get. In true Daveart fashion, the sides are adorned with light flares and special effects over a series of three leafs, accented by a double stripe down the center.
Vasilevsky’s Sylabrush mask, on the other hand, is like a masterpiece all its own. Artist Sylvie Marsolais uses a number of painterly techniques from sharp typography to soft realism, but still manages to pull off a cohesive composition due to the placement and color palette. Sorry Jack, but you never stood a chance.
• More: HbD Interviews: Sylvie Marsolais
Result: Lightning in 4
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Boston Bruins
Antti Raanta (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart) vs. Linus Ullmark (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart)
Without Andersen available for the start of the series, Antti Raanta assumed the responsibilities to take on Linus Ullmark and the Bruins, who will likely also see some action from Jeremy Swayman. Since then, an injury to Raanta brought the playoff debut of Pyotr Kochetkov, who will also be in net for game 3, but for the purposes of the BBS, we’ll stick with Raanta’s mask, as he was the series starter.
Both of these goaltenders are Daveart clients, so there are once again quite a few similarities in their masks, but let’s start with Raanta.
Raanta, who during his time in Arizona often displayed cartoon dogs on his buckets (hey, whatever floats your boat), now pays tribute to Canes’ mascot Stormy by giving the dog a pig mask. Unique, sure, but strange as hell.
Like with our first all-Daveart match up, neither of these masks blow me away, which honestly is to be expected when you produce the sheer volume of work that Gunnarsson does. That said, Raanta does inject some creativity and personality into his, so for that, we’ll give Carolina the edge.
Result: Canes in 7
New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Igor Shesterkin (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart) vs. Casey DeSmith (Jesse Acciacca, Jesse’s Custom Design)
For those who just want entertainment, the series between the Rangers and Penguins sure started off with a bang, with game 1 ending in triple OT. Starting goaltenders Igor Shesterkin and Casey DeSmith – who got the nod due to a lagging injury to Tristan Jarry – put in the work, combining for 127 saves before DeSmith was also injured, bringing in Louis Domingue to finish the job. Sheesh. That said, with DeSmith’s game 2 availability unknown, he started this series, so we’re going to use his mask for the purposes of our match up today.
Shesterkin’s Daveart mask, titled “Rangers Red Machine: The King Tribute” pays homage to Rangers great (and former Daveart client) Henrik Lundqvist sprinkled in with Lady Liberty and Rangers iconography.
Across the ice, DeSmith and artist Jesse Acciacca took a much simpler approach to designing a mask, hearkening back to the style DeSmith prefers. While this may be simple compositionally, Acciacca does a killer job at making every line super crisp and bold, which makes the mask stand out amongst a field of more cluttered designs.
Shesterkin gets some points to honoring Hank, but overall, the Penguins take this one by a far easier margin than their game 1 victory.
Result: Penguins in 5
Colorado Avalanche vs. Nashville Predators
Darcy Kuemper (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart) vs. David Rittich (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart)
While we’re on the topic of series with goaltending madness, with presumed starter Juuse Saros unavailable for Nashville, David Rittich stepped in and had a bumpy ride against the powerhouse Avalanche and quickly got replaced by Conor Ingram. That said, he has an awesome mask, so we’ll keep “No Save Dave” (oof) in here for the BBS.
Starting with Kuemper, his Daveart mask is an abstract take on the Rockies, leveraging the mountain shape to create a chevron pattern of sorts. It’s something we’ve seen Gunnarsson do before for Avalanche alumni clients like Phillip Grubauer, which works, but isn’t particularly original.
Rittich, for all the faults in his play, came out hot with his Stadium Series mask and pads to match, a stellar neon tribute to music city. Plus, he even had a matching pair made for his soon-to-be child, like come on.
While special effects like glows or light flares are nothing new for Gunnarsson, this design lends itself so well to a Nashville goaltender, and I know we’re talking about masks, but with the pads, it’s just… chef’s kiss.
Result: Nashville in 4
Minnesota Wild vs. St. Louis Blues
Marc-Andre Fleury (Stephane Bergeron, Griff Airbrush) vs. Ville Husso (Joni Hallikainen, Bona Hallikainen Customs)
If you told us back in October that Marc-Andre Fleury and Ville Husso would be the game 1 starters for a Minnesota – St. Louis series, you’d probably have gotten some weird looks, but here we are. Wild newcomer MAF has a shiny new bucket by Stephane Bergeron and inspired by NHL legend Andy Moog’s “open mouth” concept.
Fleury said his mask is a “wild beast with his mouth open” inspired by Andy Moog’s old Bruins mask. “And got some flowers in the background.”— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) April 11, 2022
Fleury knows it’s sacrilege with a Bruins inspired mask being a former Habs fan, but he’s “a goalie fan” too https://t.co/eddaBR8vRV
His opponent also seemingly pulled ideas from goaltenders of the past, sporting a Rick Heinz-inspired color blocked design with tiny blue notes on the sides. Artist Joni “Bona” Hallikainen modernized Greg Harrison’s original work and executed it flawlessly with a crispy paint job that has looked stellar on the ice.
While we have to give props to MAF on his creativity and flair, the simplicity and legibility of Husso’s makes the mask really bulletproof. It’s hard to find anything wrong with it, and for that reason, the Blues get the W.
Result: Blues in 6
Calgary Flames vs. Dallas Stars
Jacob Markstrom (Jordon Bourgeault, J Bo Airbrush) vs. Jake Oettinger (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart)
Jacob Markstrom and the Flames take on a surprising playoff participant in Jake Oettinger and the Stars, who squeaked in at the final hour to earn a spot in the postseason. Starting with Markstrom, whose mask was painted by artist Jordon Bourgeault,
One of two masks Bourgeault created for Markstrom this season, in game 1 he sported one with a demon skull on top and flames cascading down the sides. Not dissimilar in concept to Fleury’s, the teeth frame the face opening in a way we see often with animals but not with skulls, making this mask more unique.
Oettinger’s on the other hand showcases less ingenuity, mainly leveraging Stars logos to frame out color fields on the mask with, you guessed it, more logos sprinkled in. It’s a pretty easy call here, but the Flames take the series with ease.
Result: Flames in 4
Edmonton Oilers vs. Los Angeles Kings
Mike Smith (David Arrigo) vs. Jonathan Quick (Dave Gunnarsson, Daveart)
Last but not least, the Oilers, backstopped by Mike Smith, take on another surprising opponent in the LA Kings, with veteran netminder Jonathan Quick. For the purposes of the BBS, we’ll use Mike Smith’s mask in this round, so let’s start there.
Painted by David Arrigo in January of last year, the design pays tribute to Grant Fuhr and his iconic Greg Harrison mask, as well as the long time Oilers’ locker room attendant Joey Moss, who passed in 2020. Arrigo does a terrific job here of incorporating the two legends and creating a dynamic design from all angles.
While Smith has been super creative and given us quite a bit of variety with his masks over the years, Quick has been the picture of consistency, sticking with the “Battle Armour” theme, first coined by Eyecandyair, since he debuted it back in 2009. Dave Gunnarsson has since taken over the design of Quick’s buckets but kept with a similar motif, adding a metallic finish this season to mimic the Kings skaters’ silver helmets.
Gotta hand it to Smith here – the creativity and artistry shown by Arrigo are really fantastic, and Quick’s just doesn’t stack up.
Result: Oilers in 4